Otwell, Sr., et al. v. Alabama Power Co., No. 13-12584 (11th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Alabama Power on their complaint alleging that Alabama Power unreasonably lowered the water levels of Smith Lake. Determining that Article III's standing requirements have been met, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to issue a declaratory judgment concerning plaintiffs' purported riparian rights. Plaintiffs did not have a right to a declaratory judgment and the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion by assuming plaintiffs had riparian rights and then resolving their claims on an alternative basis. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs' claims were a collateral attack on the FERC's final relicensing determination. Plaintiffs' argument that they were not subject to the exclusive judicial review provision of section 825l(b) of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 825l(b), because they are distinct parties from Smith Lake Improvement and Stakeholders Association (SLISA) and did not participate in the proceedings before the FERC was unavailing. Section 821 of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 821, did not allow plaintiffs to veto the operation of a project that was approved and licensed by the FERC. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Alabama Power.