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Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble

Citation: 7 ELR 20612
No. No. C-74-0649 SW, 431 F. Supp. 320/9 ERC 2164/(N.D. Cal., 04/28/1977) Motion for permanent injunction denied

An environmental impact statement (EIS) was not defective despite subsequently developed material showing an earthquake for which there was no historic precedent but which could destroy an earth-fill dam. Plaintiffs moved for a permanent injunction on the grounds that the Corps of Engineers failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the EIS supplement on the dam project because new information after completion of hearings and publication of the supplement indicated that an earthquake fault was longer than previously shown, which increased the possibility of an earthquake, and a new study was released on the effect of impounding water on the triggering of earthquakes. Denying the motion, the court holds first that the EIS adequately covers the question of the earthquake-triggering effect of impounded water. Secondly, although the new information on the extent of the fault was "interesting," the court cannot send the Corps "back to the drawing board every time new and compelling arguments or materials are developed" because it would allow imaginative opponents to postpone project construction forever. Preparation, publication, and public discussion of an EIS is a valuable procedural step to alert decision makers to consequences; if done, the objectives of NEPA are met. Subsequently developed material not reasonably available to the preparers of an EIS should be presented not to the courts but to appropriate executive branch officials.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert L. Henn
Ferguson, Hoffman, Henn & Mandel, Inc.
1365 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133
(415) 673-8300

Leslie R. Perry
Luke, Libicki & Perry
847 Fifth St., Santa Rosa CA 95404
(707) 544-6942

Counsel for Defendants
Rodney H. Hamlin, Ass't U.S. Attorney
450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco CA 94102
(415) 556-1126

Thomas B. Sawyer, Dep. County Counsel
2555 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa CA 95401
(707) 527-2421