Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd.Annotate this Case
The subject of the public trust at issue in this case was the Scott River in Siskiyou County, California, a tributary of the Klamath River and a navigable waterway for the purposes of the public trust doctrine. The Court of Appeal surmised this appeal presented two questions involving the application of the public trust doctrine to groundwater extraction: whether the doctrine had ever applied to groundwater, and if so, whether the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) abrogated whatever application it might have had, replacing it with statutory rules passed by the Legislature. The Court felt there was no specific and concrete allegation that any action or forbearance to act by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) or permit issued by County of Siskiyou (County) to extract groundwater actually violated the public trust doctrine by damaging the water resources held in trust for the public by the Board or the County. Rather, the Environmental Law Foundation and associated fishery organizations Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association and Institute for Fisheries Resources (collectively ELF), the Board, and the County sought the Court's opinion as to whether the public trust doctrine mandated the Board and the County a public trust duty to consider whether the extractions of groundwater adversely affected public trust uses of the Scott River and whether SGMA took those duties away. The scope of the Court's ruling was narrow; the Court found the Legislature had not released the Scott River from the public trust nor dissolve the public trust doctrine within the text or scope of SGMA.