Thursday May 30, 2024

Downey Brand

On May 23, 2024, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a published opinion in Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Debra Haaland et al. (Case No. 21-15163) (“NRDC v. Haaland”) rejecting the plaintiffs’ challenges to the federal environmental review of certain long-term water supply contracts for the Central Valley Project (“CVP”). Specifically, the Ninth Circuit held that the Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”), Fish & Wildlife Service (“FWS”), and National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) complied with the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) in evaluating the effects of executing and implementing these contracts on listed species. The opinion is the latest development in a nearly 20-year-old case that is in its second round of review by the Ninth Circuit.

The Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (“Settlement Contractors”) are agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users who hold senior water rights to the Sacramento River. Downey Brand represents a large group of Settlement Contractors in this case.

In 1964, the Settlement Contractors or their predecessors signed 40-year contracts with Reclamation to resolve protests against Reclamation’s construction and operation of the CVP. The contracts, known as “SRS Contracts,” enable Reclamation to operate the CVP in exchange for providing the Settlement Contractors with a stable supply of water. The Settlement Contractors negotiated and executed renewed SRS Contracts with Reclamation in 2005 for another forty-year term.

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