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United States v. California Department of Transportation

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20106
Nos. No. C 09-0437 PJH, (N.D. Cal. , 02/25/2011)

A district court, on motions for summary judgment, held that the California Department of Transportation is liable to the United States for damages caused to a lake and creek due to runoff from a state-run highway that cuts across federal property—the Presidio in San Francisco. A 1938 permit authorized the state's construction of the highway. In return, the state agreed to bear all costs and liabilities associated with the highway's construction, operation, and maintenance. Here, the United States has provided sufficient evidence to support a finding that discharges of lead, copper, and zinc in the runoff from the highway have caused damage to the lake. Such contamination constitutes “damage caused to the property of the United States incident to the operation or maintenance” of the highway as provided in the 1938 permit. In addition, it is undisputed that the state has failed to repair or remediate the damage. Accordingly, the state is liable for the damage caused to the lake. It is also liable for its share of past and future remediation costs incurred or to be incurred by the United States in responding to the contamination of the lake, including costs of investigation.