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James River Flood Control Ass'n v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20483
Nos. No. 81-1012, 553 F. Supp. 1284/18 ERC 1844/(D.S.D., 12/22/1982) Judgment for defendants

The court upholds the adequacy of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Garrison Diversion Unit and approves the Department of the Interior's decision to proceed with the initial stage of the project. First, the court holds that a 1976 draft supplemental EIS can be considered together with a 1979 final supplemental EIS and a 1974 final EIS in deciding whether the agency has complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Next, the court rules that these documents satisfy NEPA's procedural requirement that an EIS contain sufficient detail to permit a reasoned choice of alternatives. Although water quality impacts on the James River in North Dakota are discussed in more detail than water quality impacts in South Dakota, plaintiffs have not shown that the statements are inadequate. The statements do indicate some adverse impacts on river quality in South Dakota and recognize the unavailability of and need for a lake hydrology study to fully understand river quality impacts.

The court holds, based on an arbitrariness standard of review, that the agency acted within its authority in deciding to proceed with part of the project. The initial stage plan, described in the 1979 EIS, is consistent with the 1965 congressional authorization of the project and will have more beneficial than adverse impacts. The court rejects plaintiffs' claim that the Interior Department has adopted a modified plan that was never authorized by Congress. The court rules that plaintiffs have not presented clear evidence necessary to overcome the presumption of the regularity of official acts. Finally, the court holds that defendants have not gone beyond mere contemplation of a modified plan and thus do not need to prepare a revised EIS.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Thomas E. Klinkel
Richardson, Groseclose, Kornmann, Wyly, Wise & Klinkel
P.O. Box 1030, Aberdeen SD 57401
(605) 225-6311

Counsel for Defendants
Andrew F. Walch
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5286

Dawn Bowen, Ass't U.S. Attorney
425 Fed. Bldg., 225 S. Pierre St., Pierre SD 57501
(605) 224-5402

Counsel for Defendants-Intervenors
Murray G. Sagsveen
Zuger & Bucklin
P.O. Box 1695, Bismarck ND 58501
(701) 223-2711

Counsel for Amicus Curiae National Audubon Soc'y
Charles K. Dayton
Pepin, Dayton, Herman, Graham & Getts
930 Lumber Exchange, 10 S. 5th St., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 339-7633