Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Headwaters, Inc. v. Talent Irrigation Dist.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20535
Nos. 99-35373, 243 F.3d 526/(9th Cir., 03/12/2001)

The court holds that an herbicide's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved label under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) did not eliminate an irrigation district's obligation to obtain a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA) before treating irrigation canals with the herbicide. Environmental groups brought suit against the district to enjoin it from applying the herbicide to irrigation canals after dead fish were found in a nearby creek around and downstream from a leaking canal waste gate. The court first holds that the herbicide's registration and labeling under FIFRA do not preclude the need for an NPDES permit under the CWA. The label's general rules for applying the herbicide must be observed under FIFRA, but where the herbicide will enter waters of the United States, FIFRA provides no method for analyzing the local impact and regulating the discharge from a particular point source. EPA approves pesticides under FIFRA with the knowledge that pesticides containing pollutants may be discharged from point sources into navigable waters only pursuant to a properly issued CWA permit. An NPDES permit, therefore, provides the local monitoring that FIFRA does not and was necessary in this situation. The court next holds that the irrigation district's application of the herbicide into the irrigation canals qualified as a discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters because the canals exchange water with a number of natural streams and at least one lake, and divert water to streams and creeks. The court therefore holds that an NPDES permit was necessary before application of the herbicide to the canals.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles M. Tebbutt
Western Environmental Law Center
1216 Lincoln St., Eugene OR 97401
(541) 485-2471

Counsel for Defendant
Robert L. Cowling
Hornecker, Cowling, Hassen & Heysell
717 Murphy Rd., Medford OR 97504
(541) 779-8900

Boochever, J. Before Trott and Berzon, JJ.: