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Leading District Court Opinion on NEPA: The Trinity River-Wallisville Dam Case

April 1973

Citation: ELR 10044

A recent district court opinion from Texas may constitute something of a watershed for the National Environmental Policy Act in the courts. Just as the lengthy district court opinion over two years ago in the Gillham Dam case1 led the way in identifying and resolving the first generation of NEPA issues, the even more lengthy decision in Sierra Club v. Froehlke2 leads the way in identifying and resolving a second generation of issues that cluster around NEPA's substantive requirements and the basic decisionmaking tools used to implement the national environmental policy. Because the case raises such a wide variety of issues, this Comment will attempt only to draw attention to the most important aspects of Judge Bue's remarkable opinion.

In Sierra Club v. Froehlke, plaintiffs challenged the imminent construction of the Wallisville Dam on the Trinity River near its mouth at Houston, Texas. The project allegedly had substantial local benefits, especially the protection of upstream rice crops threatened by salt water that had begun to penetrate freshwater areas as a result of the construction of navigation projects.

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