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Klamath Falls, City of v. Babbitt

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20687
Nos. No. 94-2037(NHJ), 947 F. Supp. 1/(D.D.C., 05/10/1996)

The court holds that the Secretary of the Interior's designation of an 11-mile section of the Klamath River in Oregon as a National Scenic River did not violate the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), or the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The court first holds that the city of Klamath Falls has standing, because the Secretary's designation prevents the city from obtaining a license to construct a hydroelectric power plant on the river. And because the city argues that it has an interest as a municipality in the condition of the river and basin, and because the city argues that it believes the hydroelectric plant could actually solve some of the basin's ecological problems, the court concludes that the city's injury is arguably within the zone of interest of NEPA and the WSRA. The court next holds that the Secretary's decision does not violate NEPA. The environmental assessment that the National Park Service prepared considered the appropriate alternatives to the designation and took a hard look at its potential environmental impacts. Also, the Secretary's decision not to prepare an environmental impact statement was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. The court next holds that the Secretary's decision did not violate the APA, because it was not arbitrary and capricious and the Secretary established a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made. The court next holds that the Secretary's decision did not violate the WSRA, which authorizes the Secretary to designate rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System if they have been designated as wild, scenic, or recreational rivers by an act of the legislature of the affected state. The river was designated into the state system for wild or scenic rivers through voter initiative and such designation is considered an act of the legislature. Finally, the court holds that an amendment to the WSRA that selected the river for a study to determine its eligibility and suitability for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System did not strip the Secretary of authority to designate the river.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Peter S. Glaser
Doherty, Rumble & Butler
1401 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 1100, Washington DC 20005
(202) 393-2554

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