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Central Delta Water Agency v. United States

Citation: 33 ELR 20047
No. No. 01-16172, 306 F.3d 938/(9th Cir., 09/26/2002)

The court holds that individuals and state agencies have standing to bring suit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for possible damages from heightened water salinity that will occur in their area due to the BLM's water resources management plan even though the individuals and state agencies have not yet suffered any injury. The court first holds that the necessary showing for standing by the individuals is not that the applicable salinity standard has already been exceeded or that the individuals' crops have already been damaged by excessively saline water, but that the individuals face significant risk that the crops that they have planted will not survive as a result of the BLM's decision to discharge water from a nearby reservoir into sources other than the river that feeds the individuals' property. The individuals need not wait to challenge the BLM's action until after the BLM's water management policy results in a violation of the salinity standard and their crops are damaged or destroyed. This conclusion is consistent with other circuit courts that have recognized that a credible threat of harm is sufficient to constitute actual injury for standing purposes, whether or not a statutory violation has occurred. Here, the risk of harm to the individuals' crops is not so speculative or diffuse as to render the controversy a hypothetical one; rather, the risk is sufficient to afford the individuals standing. Similarly, the state agencies have standing to challenge the BLM's water management decision because the agencies seek to protect interests germane to their purposes. The court, therefore, reverses the lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the BLM.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Daniel A. McDaniel
Nomellini, Grilli & McDaniel
235 E. Weber Ave., Stockton CA 95202
(209) 465-5883

Counsel for Defendants
David C. Shilton
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000