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California Natural Resources Agency v. Ross

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20113
Nos. 1:20-CV-00426-DAD-EPG and 1:20-CV-00431-DAD-EPG, (E.D. Cal., 05/11/2020) (Drozd, D.)

A district court preliminarily enjoined the Bureau of Reclamation from expanding water export operations in California's Central Valley based on biological opinions (BiOps) adopted by NMFS and FWS in 2019. California and environmental groups argued that NMFS violated the APA by concluding that expanding operations would not jeopardize the ESA-listed winter-run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon, California Central Valley (CCV) steelhead, and Delta smelt. The court found that plaintiffs raised serious questions about whether NMFS had articulated a satisfactory explanation for omitting a particular measure to protect CCV steelhead in its 2019 BiOp that was required by its 2009 BiOp. Plaintiffs also argued the Bureau of Reclamation unlawfully relied on NMFS' 2019 BiOp when it formally adopted and implemented the expanded operations. The court found that the serious questions plaintiffs raised with respect to NMFS' liability under ESA §7 also raised serious questions as to the Bureau's liability. It therefore granted plaintiffs' request to enjoin the expanded export operations in the South Delta and reinstate the inflow to export ratio from NMFS' 2009 BiOp through May 31, on the specific ground that such operations would irreparably harm threatened CCV steelhead.