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San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. United States

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20060
Nos. 09-17594, (9th Cir., 03/02/2012)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision granting summary judgment in favor of the U.S. government on claims challenging the DOI's accounting of approximately 9,000 acre feet of water released between June 17 and 24, 2004, from two reservoirs within California's Central Valley Project (CVP). Water agencies argued that the DOI abused its discretion in failing to apply the June 2004 releases against the 800,000 acre feet of CVP yield especially designated for fish, wildlife, and habitat restoration under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. The water agencies had standing to challenge the accounting methods used by DOI for the water year in question. Nevertheless, the DOI's accounting with respect to those releases was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. While the DOI could have implemented a more coherent set of accounting procedures or given a complete explanation of its accounting for the 2004 water year, the explanations it did offer are not mere post hoc rationalizations. As such, the DOI's failure to give full contemporaneous explanations does not amount to an abuse of discretion or otherwise invalidate its actions.