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Del Norte, County of v. United States

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20541
Nos. Nos. C-81-0567, -1457-WAI, 19 ERC 1138/(N.D. Cal., 02/11/1983)

The court invalidates the Secretary of the Interior's designation of five wild and scenic rivers in California for failure to comply with Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations governing preparation of environmental impact statements (EISs). The court first rules that plaintiffs have standing because each has alleged an injury-in-fact that is within the zone of interests protected by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Although the claimed injuries are economic in nature, they would result from the agency action subject to NEPA. Furthermore, plaintiffs have been adversely affected within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act and their injury is likely to be redressed by the remedy sought.

The court rules that defendants violated the CEQ regulations when the Secretary made a decision on the river designations sooner than filing, notice, and publication time requirements allowed. The court rejects defendants' argument that the violation was insubstantial and the court in its equitable discretion should ignore it. The court rules that admitted false verification of filing dates constitutes sufficient harm to plaintiffs to merit summary judgment. The court also rules that the Secretary did not properly consider whether the state of California had agreed to administer the rivers as required by the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Finally, the court refuses to grant summary judgment for plaintiffs on several other issues, including whether the use of samples and summaries of comments in the EIS was proper and whether defendants failed to consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed action.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Alson R. Kemp Jr., James L. Warren, Mauricio A. Flores
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro
225 Bush St., San Francisco CA 94104
(415) 983-1000

Counsel for Defendants
Janice Siegel
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2290

Counsel for Intervenors
Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Robertson & Falk
Suite 2900, 650 California St., San Francisco CA 94108
(415) 434-1600