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Navajo Nation v. DOI

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20157
Nos. 3:03-cv-00507-GMS, (9th Cir., 12/04/2017)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court's dismissal of a tribe's NEPA challenge to a DOI guidance that did not consider its interest when allocating the water rights of the Colorado River. The tribe contended that it was unlawfully excluded from DOI 2001 and 2008 guidances that outlined how water is to be distributed in times of surplus or shortage. The tribe claimed that when its reservation was established the U.S. granted it legal rights to some of the water. It alleged that the guidelines were a breach of trust and that DOI had violated NEPA. The lower court dismissed both claims, holding that the breach of trust claim was barred by sovereign immunity. Further, the tribe did not have standing to bring the NEPA claim as it could not demonstrate it was reasonably probable the guidelines threatened its water supply. The appellate court agreed with the lower court that the tribe did not have standing to bring the NEPA claim; however, it held that the breach of trust claim was not barred as §702 of the APA waived sovereign immunity for all non-monetary claims. The case was remanded.