San Luis v. Jewell, No. 11-15871 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The district court invalidated a biological opinion (BiOp) by the FWS concluding that the Central Valley and State Water Projects jeopardized the continued existence of the delta smelt, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the district court overstepped its bounds by not limiting itself to court-appointed experts. The court concluded that the 2008 BiOp's reliance on raw salvage figures to set the upper and lower OMR (Old and Middle Rivers) flow limits was not arbitrary and capricious; the 2008 BiOp's determination of X2 (the point in the Bay-Delta at which the salinity is less than two parts per thousand) was not arbitrary and capricious; the BiOp's incidental take statements was now flawed; the record supported the BiOp's conclusions regarding the indirect effects of project operations; and the FWS was not required to support the "non-jeopardy" elements of the reasonable and prudent alternatives. The court agreed with the district court's analysis that Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife did not require the FWS to segregate discretionary from non-discretionary actions when it considered the environmental baseline; reclamation did not violate the ESA by accepting the 2008 BiOp; under these circumstances, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., did not require the FWS to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in conjunction with the issuance of the BiOp; and Reclamation's provisional adoption and implementation of the BiOp triggered its obligation to comply with NEPA. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.