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Manitoba, Province of v. DOI

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20107
Nos. 02-2057, (D.D.C., 08/10/2017) (Collyer, J.)

A district court held that the Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) did not violate NEPA when it decided to proceed with a water supply project. In 2002, the Province of Manitoba sued under NEPA to prevent the Bureau from proceeding with the Northwest Area Water Supply Project (NAWS), arguing that an April 2001 EA and FONSI violated NEPA. The goal of NAWS is to provide water from Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir in the Missouri River Basin, to communities in North Dakota in need of water. In 2015, the Bureau produced an EIS and decided to move forward with the project. Manitoba Province and the state of Missouri challenged the agency decision, asserting that the Bureau failed to consider the possibility of increased turbidity in the waters of Lake Sakakawea due to the effects of climate change, among other things. The Bureau argued that the challengers overestimated the effects of climate change on turbidity and that it was considered in the EIS. The court sided with the Bureau, finding that NEPA is a procedural statute designed “to ensure ‘a fully informed and well-considered decision, not necessarily’ the best decision.” The court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bureau.