San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority et al v. Locke et al

Filing 266

MEMORANDUM DECISION RE Cross Motions for Summary Judgment Re NEPA Issues 82 83 , signed by Judge Oliver W. Wanger on 03/05/2010. (Coffman, Lisa)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 I. INTRODUC T I O N These co n s o l i d a t e d cases all challeng e the June 4, 2009 issuance of a biological opinion by the National Marine Fisherie s Serv i c e ("NMFS" ) , finding that the coor d i n a t e d operatio n s of the federal Central Valley Project ("CVP") and State Wa t e r Pr o j e c t ("SWP " ) are likely to jeopard i z e the continue d exis t e n c e and a d v e r s e l y affect the crit i c a l habitat of certa i n sal m o n i d and o t h e r species ("2009 Salm o n i d BiOp"), as well as the implementa t i o n of the terms of tha t BiOp by the United S t a t e s Bureau of R e c l a m a t i o n ("Reclamation " ) . 1 Because CONSOLID A T E D S A L M O N I D CAS E S 1:09-CV-1053 OWW DLB MEMORAND U M DEC I S I O N RE CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON NE P A ISSUES (Docs. 8 2 & 83 ) . UNITED S T A T E S DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DIST R I C T OF CALIFORNIA the 2009 Salmo n i d Bi O p found that planned coordin a t e d Project Th e sp e c i e s ad d r e s s e d b y th i s b i o l o g i c a l op i n i o n ar e : ( 1 ) end a n g e r e d Sa c r a m e n t o Ri v e r wi n t e r - r u n C h i n o o k s a l m o n (O n c o r h y n c h u s tsh a w y t s c h a ) (" w i n t e r - r u n " ) ; ( 2 ) t h r e a t e n e d Ce n t r a l Va l l e y sp r i n g - r u n Chi n o o k s a l m o n (O . ts h a w y t s c h a ) (" s p r i n g - r u n " ) ; (3 ) th r e a t e n e d Ce n t r a l Val l e y st e e l h e a d (" C V " ) (O . my k i s s ) ; ( 4 ) t h r e a t e n e d Ce n t r a l C a l i f o r n i a Coa s t ( " C C C " ) s t e e l h e a d (O . my k i s s ) ; ( 5 ) t h r e a t e n e d So u t h e r n Di s t i n c t Pop u l a t i o n Se g m e n t (" D P S " ) o f No r t h Am e r i c a n g r e e n s t u r g e o n ( A c i p e n s e r med i r o s t r i s ) (" S o u t h e r n DP S of g r e e n s t u r g e o n " ) ; a n d ( 6 ) en d a n g e r e d Sou t h e r n Re s i d e n t k i l l e r w h a l e s (O r c i n u s o r c a ) ( " S o u t h e r n R e s i d e n t s " ) (co l l e c t i v e l y , th e "L i s t e d S p e c i e s " ) . 1 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 operatio n s wou l d jeopardi z e the continued existen c e of and/or adversel y modi f y the crit i c a l habitat of several of the species, 2 2009 Salmon i d BiOp at 1-2, 3 NMFS proposed a Reasonab l e and Prudent Alternative ("RPA") that i m p o s e s a number o f oper a t i n g restr i c t i o n s and other measures on the Projects . The RPA included numerous elements for each of the various projec t divisions and associated stressor s , which NMFS conclude d "mus t be implem e n t e d in its entirety to avoi d jeopardy and a d v e r s e modi f i c a t i o n . " Id. at 578. The descript i o n of the RPA co m p r i s e s approximately 90 pages of the 2009 Sal m o n i d BiOp. See id. at 581-671. On June 4, 200 9 , Reclamat i o n , which manages the C V P , informed NMFS that it "pr o v i s i o n a l l y accept s the [RPA] while we caref u l l y e v a l u a t e the [2009 Salmonid BiOp] an d the [RPA]" AR USBR1 ; see also 2 0 0 9 Salmonid BiOp at 2 (stati n g that Reclamat i o n in f o r m e d NMFS that, while Reclamation "may have reservat i o n s w i t h portion s of the [BiOp] ... it i s a p a c k a g e that Rec l a m a t i o n can acce p t . " ) . Reclamation info r m e d NMFS that it would immediately begin to implement the near- t e r m actions of the RPA, but n o t e d that some long-term acti o n s , such as constr u c t i o n of t h e Red Bluff Pumping Pla n t , Je o p a r d y w a s f o u n d a s t o al l of t h e c o v e r e d s p e c i e s ; ad v e r s e hab i t a t m o d i f i c a t i o n was f o u n d a s t o t h e d e s i g n a t e d cr i t i c a l ha b i t a t o f win t e r - r u n , s p r i n g - r u n , st e e l h e a d , and g r e e n s t u r g e o n . BiO p at 1 - 2 . 3 Al t h o u g h t h e B i O p is pa r t o f th e a d m i n i s t r a t i v e r e c o r d ("A R " ) , f o r eas e of r e f e r e n c e , it s i n t e r n a l pa g e r e f e r e n c e s , r a t h e r tha n AR ref e r e n c e s , a r e u s e d . 2 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 replacem e n t of the W h i s k e y t o w n temperature curtai n , and fi s h passage improv e m e n t actio n s on Battle Creek, requ i r e d addition a l pla n n i n g . See AR USBR1. Reclam a t i o n also indicate d the potential n e e d to reinitiate consul t a t i o n on several elemen t s of the R P A . AR USBR2. Plaintif f s in all of the consolidated cases 4 move for summary judgme n t , arguing that issuance and/or im p l e m e n t a t i o n of the B i O p / R P A is "major federal action" that wi l l inflict harm on the hu m a n environ m e n t , and that NMFS and/ o r Reclamat i o n sh o u l d have, but did not conduct an environmen t a l assessme n t ("E A " ) or prep a r e an environmental imp a c t statement ("EIS") under the Nationa l Environmental Policy A c t ("NEPA"). Doc. 83. Fede r a l De f e n d a n t s and Defe n d a n t - I n t e r v e n o r s opp o s e . Plaintiffs replied and submitted a su p p o r t i n g It is undis p u t e d that no NEP A Docs. 95 & 100 . declarat i o n . Docs. 115. assessme n t or documentati o n was prepared by eithe r NMFS or Reclamat i o n in connection with the issuance, prov i s i o n a l adoption , and/ o r implemen t a t i o n of the 2009 Salmonid B i O p and RPA. Defendan t - I n t e r v e n o r s cross-move for summary judgment on this cla i m , ar g u i n g that FWS was not required to prepare an Sa n Lu i s & D e l t a M e n d o t a Wa t e r Au t h o r i t y (" A u t h o r i t y " ) and Wes t l a n d s W a t e r D i s t r i c t ( " W e s t l a n d s " ) ; St o c k t o n E a s t Wa t e r D i s t r i c t ("S t o c k t o n " ) ; S t a t e W a t e r Co n t r a c t o r s (" S W C " ) ; K e r n Co u n t y Wa t e r Ag e n c y ("K C W A " ) an d Co a l i t i o n f o r a S u s t a i n a b l e D e l t a ( " C o a l i t i o n " ) ; O a k d a l e Irr i g a t i o n Di s t r i c t ( " O a k d a l e " ) , e t al . ; a n d M e t r o p o l i t a n W a t e r D i s t r i c t of So u t h e r n C a l i f o r n i a ( " M W D " ) ( c o l l e c t i v e l y , "P l a i n t i f f s " ) . 4 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 EIS in c o n n e c t i o n with issuance of the BiOp . Plaintif f s opp o s e . reply. Doc. 1 1 6 . Doc. 106. Doc. 82- 2 . Defendant-Intervenors f i l e d a The Paci f i c Le g a l Foundat i o n also seeks leave to file an amicus c u r i a e brief on be h a l f of the City of Coal i n g a , Stewart & Jasper Orcha r d s , Arroyo Farms, LLC, King Pistac h i o Grove, and Pere z Farm s . Doc. 84 . Defendant Intervenors filed a Doc. 94. response to th a t motion a n d to the brief itself. The cros s - m o t i o n s ca m e on for hearing on Fe b r u a r y 9, 2010. D o c . 21 4 . The par t i e s were granted leave to file Federal D e f e n d a n t Doc. suppleme n t a l b r i e f s on ce r t a i n issues. submitte d a su p p l e m e n t a l brief on February 12, 20 1 9 . 222. De f e n d a n t Interveno r s and Plaintiffs respon d e d on Docs. 224 & 225. The matter was February 16, 2 0 1 0 . thereaft e r sub m i t t e d for decision. II. ANALYSIS A. Threshol d Issu e s . 1. Requests for Judicia l Notice. a. Plaintif f s ' Request for Judicial Noti c e . Plaintif f s req u e s t that judicial notice be taken of: The June 4, 20 0 9 Endanger e d Species Act Section 7 Consulta t i o n B i o l o g i c a l O p i n i o n and Conference Op i n i o n on the L o n g - T e r m Operations of the Central Valley Project and St a t e s Water Project (Exh i b i t A to Doc. 834 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4). Excerpts from State Water Resources Control board Revised Water Right Decis i o n 1641, dated March 15 , 2000 (Exhibit B to Doc. 83-4). Two cour t orde r s filed in 1982 in Uni t e d States v. State of Calif o r n i a , et al., Case No. 81-4189X, 814 3 0 9 X (E x h i b i t s C and D t o Doc. 83-4). A 1982 O p e r a t i n g Plan for New Melones Reservoir, issued by the B u r e a u (Exhibit E to Doc. 83-4). Federal Defend a n t s reques t judicial notice of: The Octo b e r 19 9 9 Central Valley Project Improveme n t Act Final Pr o g r a m m a t i c E n v i r o n m e n t a l Impact Statement (Exhibit A to Doc. 101). These do c u m e n t s are all j u d i c i a l l y noticeable pub l i c records under Federal Rul e of Evidence 201(b), wh i c h authoriz e s jud i c i a l notic e of a "fact ... not sub j e c t to reasonab l e dis p u t e in that it is either (1) generally know n within t h e ter r i t o r i a l ju r i s d i c t i o n of the trial court or (2) capable of acc u r a t e and r e a d y determination by re s o r t to sources whose accuracy ca n n o t reasonably be quest i o n e d . " United S t a t e s v. 14.02 Ac r e s , 547 F.3d 943, 955 (9th Cir. 2008) (j u d i c i a l notice is proper for records and reports of administ r a t i v e agencies); Uni t e d Stat e s v. Howard, 381 F.3d 873, 876 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2 0 0 4 ) (taking judicial no t i c e of court 5 See 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 records in ano t h e r case). However, these records are admissib l e onl y for the exist e n c e of their content, no t fo r the trut h of d i s p u t e d mat t e r s asserted in the documents. B. Burden o f Proo f . The burd e n of proof set f o r t h in the Smelt NEPA d e c i s i o n is equal l y app l i c a b l e her e : In the p r e l i m i n a r y i n j u n c t i o n context, "a p l a i n t i f f seeking a preliminar y injunction must establish t h a t he is li k e l y to succ e e d on the merits, that he is likely t o suffer irr e p a r a b l e harm in the absence of prelimin a r y relief, that the balance of equities tips in his f a v o r , and th a t an injunction is in the public interest . " Am . Trucking Assns., Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 559 F.3d 10 4 6 , 1042 (9th Cir . 2009) (citing Winter v . NRDC, --- U.S. ---, 129 S. Ct. 365 (2008).) . Within th e likelihood of success on th e merits p r o n g , a cour t must evaluate each claim accordin g to applica b l e legal standards. Here, t h a t standard , in part, i n v o l v e s an inquiry into wheth e r "there a r e substanti a l questions about whether a project may cause si g n i f i c a n t degradation of the human en v i r o n m e n t . Nativ e Ecosystems Council v. U.S. Forest S e r v . , 428 F. 3 d 12 3 3 , 1239 (9th Cir. 2005). For a pr e l i m i n a r y in j u n c t i o n , plaintiffs only had to establis h that they are "likely" to meet this bur d e n under. On summary j u d g m e n t , plaintiff must actually prove su c c e s s by a p r e p o n d e r a n c e of t h e evi d e n c e . Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n at 8-9. C. Applicab l e Leg a l Standard s . The gene r a l le g a l standar d s applied in the Smelt NEPA Decision also apply here: Because NEPA contain s no separate provision for judicial review, com p l i a n c e with NEPA is reviewed under th e Administra t i v e Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A); NW Re s o u r c e Info. Ctr., Inc. v. NMFS, 56 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir. 1995), provided (1) ther e is final a g e n c y action and (2) Plaintif f s 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 can show that they h a v e suffered a legal wrong or will be adversely af f e c t e d within the meaning of the statute, North c o a s t Envt' l Ctr. v. Glickman, 136 F.3d 660, 668 (9th Cir. 1 9 9 8 ) . It is undisputed that the challeng e d agency ac t i o n , the issuance of the 200 8 smelt Bi O p and its R P A , is "final agency ac t i o n . " See Benn e t v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 161, 178 (1997) (issuanc e of biologi c a l opinion is "final agency action") . It is als o undisputed that Plaintiffs have been adv e r s e l y affec t e d by the issuance of the 20 0 8 smelt Bi O p and imple m e n t a t i o n of its RPA controlling the Proj e c t s ' water flows. NEPA req u i r e s all fe d e r a l agencies to prepare an EIS to evalu a t e the pote n t i a l environmental consequen c e s of any p r o p o s e d "maj o r Federal action[] significa n t l y affectin g the qualit y of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. 4332(C). T h e preparation of an EIS serv e s a number o f purposes: It ensur e s that the agency, in reaching its decision , will have available, and will carefully consider , detailed i n f o r m a t i o n concerning signific a n t environm e n t a l impacts; it also guarante e s that the relevant informat i o n will be made ava i l a b l e to th e larger audience that may also pla y a role in both the decisionmaking process and the impl e m e n t a t i o n of that decision. Simply b y focusing t h e agency's attention on the environm e n t a l consequence s of a proposed project, NEPA ens u r e s that im p o r t a n t effects will not be overlook e d or undere s t i m a t e d only to be discover e d after res o u r c e s have been committed or the die otherwise ca s t . Moreover, the strong precator y language o f 101 of the Act and the requirem e n t that age n c i e s prepare detailed impact statemen t s inevitabl y bring pressure to bear on agencies to re s p o n d to th e needs of environmental quality. 115 Cong. Rec. 40425 (1969) (remarks of Sen. Mus k i e ) . Publicat i o n of an EI S , both in draft and final form, al s o serves a larger informational role. It gives th e public the assurance that the agency has inde e d considere d environmental concerns in its deci s i o n m a k i n g p r o c e s s , and, perhaps more signific a n t l y , provi d e s a springboard for public 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 comment. Robertso n v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 349 (1989) (int e r n a l citations and quotation s omitted) . "NEPA doe s not contain substantive requirem e n t s that di c t a t e a particular result; instead, NEPA is aim e d at ensuring agencies make informed decis i o n s and contemplate the envi r o n m e n t a l impacts of their act i o n s . " Ocean Mammal Inst. v. Gates, 5 4 6 F. Supp. 2d 960, 971 (D. Hi. 2008) (quoting Idaho Sport i n g C o n g . v. Thomas, 137 F.3d 1146, 11 4 9 (9th Cir. 1998)). "NEPA emphasizes th e importan c e of cohere n t an d comprehensive up-front environm e n t a l analys i s to ensure informed decisio n making t o the end th a t the agency will not act on incomple t e informati o n , only to regret its decisi o n after it is too late to correct." Ctr. for Biologic a l Diversity v. U . S . Forest Service, 349 F.3d 1157, 11 6 6 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal citation and quotatio n s omitted). Federal regulations implementing NEPA define majo r federal action: Major Fe d e r a l action includes actions with effects that may be major and which are potentia l l y subject to Federal control and responsi b i l i t y . Majo r reinforces but does not have a m e a n i n g indep e n d e n t of significantly ([40 C.F.R.] 1508.27). Actions include the circumst a n c e where t h e responsible officials fail to act a n d that fail u r e to act is rev i e w a b l e by courts o r administra t i v e tribunals under the Administ r a t i v e Proce d u r e Act or other applicable law as a g e n c y action . (a) Acti o n s include new and continuing activiti e s , includin g projects and programs entirely or partly f i n a n c e d , assisted, conducted, regulate d , or approv e d by federal agencies; new or revis e d agency ru l e s , regulations, plans, policies , or procedu r e s ; and legislative proposal s ( 1506.8 , 1508.17). Actions do not include funding assi s t a n c e solely in the form of general revenu e shar i n g f u n d s , distributed under the Stat e and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972, 31 U.S.C. 1221 et seq., with no Federal agency c o n t r o l over the subsequent use of such 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 funds. A c t i o n s do no t include bringing judicial or admin i s t r a t i v e ci v i l or criminal enforcement actions. (b) Fede r a l actions tend to fall within one of the foll o w i n g catego r i e s : (1) Adop t i o n of offi c i a l policy, such as rules, r e g u l a t i o n s , and interpretations adopted pursuant to the Administrative Procedur e Act, 5 U.S . C . 551 et seq.; treaties and interna t i o n a l conventions or agreemen t s ; formal d o c u m e n t s establishing an agency's policies wh i c h will result in or substant i a l l y alter agency programs. (2) Adop t i o n of form a l plans, such as official documents p r e p a r e d or approved by federal agencies which guide or prescribe alternat i v e uses of Federal resources, upon which fu t u r e agency actions will be based. (3) Adop t i o n of prog r a m s , such as a group of concerte d actions to implement a specific policy o r plan; syst e m a t i c and connected agency d e c i s i o n s all o c a t i n g agency re s o u r c e s to imple m e n t a speci f i c statutory program or executiv e directive. (4) Appr o v a l of spec i f i c projects, such as construc t i o n or mana g e m e n t activities located in a defined geographic area. Projects include act i o n s appr o v e d by permit or other regulatory decision as well as federal and federall y assisted activities. 40 C.F.R . 1508.18. When an agency takes major federal, the agency mu s t prepare an EIS "wher e there are substantial quest i o n s about wh e t h e r a proj e c t may c a u s e significant degradat i o n of the h u m a n environment." Nat i v e Ecosyste m s , 42 8 F.3d at 1239. An agency ma y choose to prepa r e an enviro n m e n t a l assessment ("EA") to determin e whether an EIS is needed. 40 C.F.R. 1501.4, 1508.9(b). The EA must identify al l reasonab l y foreseeab l e impacts, analyze their signific a n c e , and ad d r e s s alternatives. 40 C.F.R . 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1508.8, 1508.9, 1508 . 2 7 . If, based on the EA, th e agency c o n c l u d e s tha t the proposed actions will n o t signific a n t l y affect the environment, it may issue a Finding of No Signif i c a n t Impact ("FONSI") and fo r e g o completi o n of an EIS . See Bob Marsha l l All i a n c e v. Hodel, 8 5 2 F.2d 1223 , 1225 (9th Cir. 1988); 40 C. F . R . 1501.4 ( e ) . Whether an action ma y significantly affect the environm e n t "require s consideration o f cont e x t and intensit y . " C e n t e r for Biological Diversity v. Nat'l Highway Traffic Safe t y Admin., 538 F.3d 117 2 , 1185 (9th Cir . 2008)(citi n g 40 C.F.R. 1508.27). "Context delimits th e scope of the agency's action, includin g the intere s t s affected." Id. (qu o t i n g Nat'l. P a r k s & Conse r v a t i o n Ass'n v. Babbit, 241 F.3d 722, 731 (9th Cir. 2 0 0 1 ) ) . Intensit y refers to the "severity of impact," which in c l u d e s both beneficial and adverse impacts, [t]he degr e e to which the proposed action a f f e c t s public health or safety, [t]he degree t o which the effects on the quality of the human en v i r o n m e n t ar e likely to be highly controve r s i a l , "[t] h e degree to which the possible effects on the human environment are highly u n c e r t a i n or involve unique or unknown risks," and "[w]heth e r the action is related to other ac t i o n s with i n d i v i d u a l l y insignificant but cumulati v e l y signifi c a n t impacts." Id. at 1 1 8 5 - 8 6 (citing 40 C.F.R. 1508.27(b)(2), (4), (5) , (7)). The part i e s debate a t length the degree of deference owed to an agency's decision under NEPA. However , in this cas e , neither a g e n c y made any NEPA-rel a t e d decision to which de f e r e n c e is owed. The relevan t standard is "reasona b l e n e s s , " as articulated in High Sierra H i k e r s Ass'n v. Blackwell: Typicall y , an agency ' s decision not to prepare an EIS is r e v i e w e d unde r the arbitrary and capricio u s standard; however, where an agency has decided that a proje c t does not require an EIS without first conduc t i n g an EA, we review under the reas o n a b l e n e s s s t a n d a r d . 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 390 F.3d 630, 640 (9 t h Cir. 2004). "Furthe r , when an agency h a s taken act i o n without observance of the procedur e required b y law, that action will be se t aside." Id. ( c i t a t i o n s omitted). Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n at 9-14. D. Major Fe d e r a l Action. 40 C.F.R . 15 0 8 . 1 8 provides that major 5 "[f]ederal actions tend t o fall with i n one of the following categories": (1) Adop t i o n of offi c i a l policy, such as rules, regulati o n s , and int e r p r e t a t i o n s adopted pursuant to the Admi n i s t r a t i v e P r o c e d u r e Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.; tr e a t i e s and i n t e r n a t i o n a l conv e n t i o n s or agreemen t s ; formal d o c u m e n t s establishing an agen c y ' s policies which will result in or substantially al t e r agency p r o g r a m s . (2) Adop t i o n of form a l plans, such as official document s prepared o r approved by federal agencies which gu i d e or presc r i b e alternative uses of Fede r a l resource s , upon whic h future agency actions will be based. (3) Adop t i o n of prog r a m s , such concerte d actions to implement plan; sy s t e m a t i c and connected allocati n g agency re s o u r c e s to statutor y program or executive as a group of a specific policy or agency decisions implement a specif i c directive. (4) Appr o v a l o f specific projects, such as construc t i o n or mana g e m e n t activities located in a defined geographic a r e a . Projects include actions approved by permit o r other regulator y decision as well as federal and federally assisted activities . 40 C.F.R . 15 0 8 . 1 8 . Pla i n t i f f s principally rely on 1508.18( b ) ( 4 ) as a basis for imposing NEPA obliga t i o n s on NMFS in this case, arguing tha t the 2009 Salmonid BiOp is a n "[a]ppro v a l of specific p r o j e c t s , suc h as c o n s t r u c t i o n or manageme n t act i v i t i e s loc a t e d in a defined geogra p h i c area." Se c t i o n 15 0 8 . 1 8 pr o v i d e s th a t t h e wor d "m a j o r " in t h e p h r a s e m a j o r fed e r a l a c t i o n "r e i n f o r c e s b u t d o e s no t ha v e a m e a n i n g i n d e p e n d e n t of " th e ter m "s i g n i f i c a n t l y " in "s i g n i f i c a n t l y a f f e c t i n g t h e h u m a n en v i r o n m e n t . " 5 11 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Doc. 83 at 11. Unde r this provision, "Proj e c t s i n c l u d e actions approv e d by permi t or other regulatory de c i s i o n as well as federa l and federally assiste d activities." 1508.18( b ) ( 4 ) . 1. Ramsey v . Kantor is Distinguishable. Ramsey v . Kant o r , 96 F.3d 434 (9th Cir. 199 6 ) , is the only dec i s i o n to have app l i e d 40 C.F.R. 1508.18 ( b ) ( 4 ) to require NEPA a n a l y s i s for a biological opin i o n . NEPA Dec i s i o n distinguish e d Ramsey: ...Ramse y v. K a n t o r , 96 F.3d 434 (9th Cir. 1996), [] applied NEPA to the National Marine Fisheries Service' s ("NMFS") i s s u a n c e of a biological opini o n and inci d e n t a l take statement ("ITS") under ESA 7 permitti n g state reg u l a t o r s to issue salmon fishi n g regulati o n s consiste n t with that take statement. 96 F.3d at 441-44 5 . Ramsey foun d the biological opinion and ITS constituted "major federal action," triggeri n g NEPA comp l i a n c e , because it was "clear ... both fro m our cases and from the federal regulati o n s , see 40 C . F . R . 1508.18, that if a federal permit is a prereq u i s i t e for a project with adverse impact on the envi r o n m e n t , iss u a n c e of that permit does constitu t e major fed e r a l action and the federal agency i n v o l v e d must conduct an EA and possibly a n EIS befo r e granting it." Id. at 444. Ramsey d e t e r m i n e d : [T]he in c i d e n t a l tak e statement in this case is function a l l y equival e n t to a permit because the activity in question would, for all practical purposes , be prohibited but for the incidental take sta t e m e n t . Acc o r d i n g l y , we hold that the issuance of that sta t e m e n t constitutes major federal action for p u r p o s e s of NEPA. Id. The Rams e y fed e r a l d e f e n d a n t s contended tha t there was insu f f i c i e n t fed e r a l participatio n in a state run 12 The S m e l t 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 project to require a n EIS. The Appeals Court disagree d : "if a fe d e r a l permit is a prerequisit e for a pr o j e c t with a d v e r s e impact on the environm e n t , issuance of that per m i t does constitute a major federal action...." triggerin g NEPA. Id. a t 444 (interna l citations and quotations omitted). Ramsey held tha t "the incid e n t a l take statement in [that ] case is functionally equivalent to a permit becau s e the acti v i t y in ques t i o n would, for all practical purposes , be prohibi t e d but for the inciden t a l take statemen t . " I d . Be c a u s e the ITS was the functional equivale n t of a perm i t , NEPA applied to the issua n c e of the b i o l o g i c a l op i n i o n , despite federal defendan t s ' contenti o n that the mere issuance of an ITS was insufficient federal particip a t i o n in a state project. Here, un l i k e R a m s e y , the CVP is an entirely federal project, operated by Reclamation, a federal agenc y , renderin g Ramsey's " f u n c t i o n a l equivalency" analy s i s largely irrelevant. Ramsey stands for two important principl e s : F i r s t , under certain circumsta n c e s , a biologic a l opinion m a y qualify as a major federal action f o r NEPA purp o s e s ; second, not every biologic a l opinion i s a major federal action. Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n at 16-17 (footnot e s omitted)( e m p h a s i s added). Here, in an ar g u m e n t that would have been equally applicab l e in the smelt c a s e , but was not raised there, Plaintif f s sug g e s t that t h e Smelt NEPA Decision i n c o r r e c t l y conclude d that Ramsey is dist i n g u i s h a b l e be c a u s e the B i O p applies not on l y to opera t i o n s of the federal CVP, but als o to operatio n s of the SWP, a state-run project. Plai n t i f f s maintain "Recl a m a t i o n sho u l d not have to account for the environm e n t a l effects of a biological opinion it did not produce on a w a t e r supply project it does not ope r a t e . " 13 Doc. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 106 at 1 1 . But, Pla i n t i f f s ignore th e interconnected nature of the SWP and CVP pr o j e c t s . Re c l a m a t i o n and DWR have, for many See years, o p e r a t e d the proje c t s in a coordinated man n e r . OCAP Bio l o g c a l Assessment ("OCAP BA") at 1-2. The Bio l o g i c a l Assessment ("B A " ) , p r e p a r e d b y Reclamation, descr i b e s the project for wh i c h consult a t i o n was being sought a s "the ongoing operat i o n s of the CVP and SWP and potenti a l future actions that a r e foreseea b l e to occur within the period covered by the project de s c r i p t i o n . " Id. a t 1-1. The two water pr o j e c t s , which are jointly operated by Rec l a m a t i o n and DWR, sha r e wat e r resource s , storage, pumping, and conveyance faciliti e s to manage and deliver one third of the water supply for the State of Californ i a . Reclamation's BA provide d NM F S with ext e n s i v e analyses o f the effects of coordin a t e d operatio n of t h e CVP and SWP on the Listed Specie s . For the reason s described below, it is the coordi n a t e d operatio n of t h e pro j e c t s , rather than the propos e d modifica t i o n o f operations of f e r e d by the BiOp, that trigg e r s NEPA. M o r e o v e r , although it is ultimately up to the agencies involved to de t e r m i n e the appropriate lead agency , Reclamat i o n , a s the feder a l project operator, wit h extensive experien c e eva l u a t i n g the environmental impacts o f wat e r deliveri e s , is the more a p p r o p r i a t e agency to bea r the NEPA 14 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 burden i n this case. To the extent Reclamation l a c k s expertis e conc e r n i n g any unique environmental imp a c t s resultin g from reduced SW P water deliveries, DWR can particip a t e in various wa y s i n the preparat i o n of NEPA document s . Se e , e.g., 40 C.F . R . 1501.5(b ) (permitti n g state agency t o act as co- l e a d agency). 2. Coordina t e d Project Operations is the Proper Focu s of any NEPA Evaluation. Having c o n c l u d e d that Ram s e y stands for the dual proposit i o n th a t while "u n d e r certain circumstanc e s , a biologic a l opi n i o n may qu a l i f y as a major federal action for NEPA pur p o s e s ... not eve r y biological opinion is a major federal action," the Smel t NE P A Decision re c o g n i z e d th a t a key factor i n deci d i n g i f a B i O p is major feder a l action i s whether the Bi O p is bindi n g upon the action agenc y , citing Westland s Wate r Dist. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Reclamat i o n , 8 5 0 F. Supp. 1388, 1422 (E.D. Cal. 1 9 9 4 ) . The Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n found that, while both agencies be a r s o m e responsi b i l i t y for imposi n g the RPAs on the Proje c t s , Reclamat i o n ' s implem e n t a t i o n of the BiOp in the contex t of coordina t e d Pr o j e c t opera t i o n s is the more approp r i a t e focus of the N E P A in q u i r y : Here, to satisfy its obligations under NEPA , Reclamat i o n initiate d formal consultation and prepared a BA to des c r i b e the proposed action. F W S , as the c o n s u l t i n g ag e n c y , reviewed the BA, disagr e e d with its conclusion, and issued the 2008 BiOp wit h an 15 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 RPA. Se e BiOp i-vi. Reclama t i o n was free to accept or rejec t , in whole or in part, FWS's recommendat i o n s and advi c e prescribe d in that RPA. The con s u l t a t i o n regulati o n s state th a t "the Federal [action] agen c y shall de t e r m i n e whet h e r and in what manner to pro c e e d with the action in l i g h t of its section 7 obligations and the Service's bi o l o g i c a l opinion." 50 C.F.R. 402.15(a ) . [ F N 7] Ho w e v e r , FW S could not is s u e the BiOp wit h o u t also in c l u d i n g an RPA to mitigate jeopardy . FWS propo s e d an RPA that called for actions that commit federal water to smelt protecti o n . Reclama t i o n was not "bound" to accep t the prop o s e d RPA, bu t it did so. Resulting operatio n s reduced 2 0 0 8 - 0 9 wa t e r deliveries by several hundred thou s a n d acre-feet. In this case, actions speak louder than words. [FN 7: C o u r t s have c o n s i s t e n t l y held that the action a g e n c y retain s the ultimate responsibility for deci d i n g whether , and how, to proceed with the prop o s e d action after Section 7 consultation. See, e.g . , Pyramid L a k e Paiute Tribe of Indians v. Dep't of the Navy, 898 F.2d 1410, 1415 ( 9 t h Cir. 199 0 ) ; Tribal Village of Akutan v. Hodel, 869 F.2d 1185, 1193 (9th Cir. 1988) ("[the action] agency is no t required to adopt the alternat i v e s suggest e d in the biological opinion" ) ; Sie r r a Cl u b v. Mar s h , 816 F.2d 1376, 1386 (9t h Cir. 1987) ("The ESA does n o t give the FWS the power to ord e r other agencies to comply with its requests or to veto their decisions."); Westland s , 850 F. Su p p . a t 1422 ("Biological opinions are not bin d i n g on the Secretary"); Nat'l Wi l d l i f e Fed'n v. Coleman, 529 F.2d 359, 371 (5th Cir. 1976)( " S e c t i o n 7 does not give [the Service] a veto over the actions of other federal agencies " ) . ] Plaintif f s argue tha t [] FWS's issuan c e of the 2008 BiOp req u i r e s that FWS pr e p a r e an EIS, beca u s e a BiOp has a "p o w e r f u l coer c i v e effect" on t h e action agency. Doc. 245-2 at 12 . On the one hand, if Reclamat i o n had disr e g a r d e d the RPA, the 2008 BiO p would no t have provi d e d an exemption from the ESA ' s take pro h i b i t i o n s , p o t e n t i a l l y subjecting the operator s to c i v i l and criminal liability. 16 U.S.C. 1538( a ) (prohibit i n g the "take" of listed species) ; 1536(o)(2) (a taking in compliance with a 16 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 biologic a l opinion's ITS "shall not be considered to be a pro h i b i t e d taki n g of the species concerned") . [ F N 8] Howev e r , Fe d e r a l Defendants argue Reclamation's departur e from the R P A would not necessarily viol a t e Section 7 of the ESA , if Reclamation took "alterna t i v e , reason a b l y adequate steps to insure the continue d existence" of listed species. Tribal Village of Akutan, 8 6 9 F.2d a t 1193. This is sophistr y . Reclamat i o n operated the joint Projects and mana g e d federal resources (CVP water) in accordan c e with the RPA, resulting in a major revision of 2008-09 coordinat e d CVP operati o n s and substant i a l realloca t i o n of federal resources. T h e only rea s o n Reclamation did so was to meet the mandate of the ESA a n d the BiOp. Bot h agen c i e s particip a t e d to some degree in the agency action at issue he r e . Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n at 23-25 (footnot e omitted). Although both agencies participated in imposing restrict i o n s o n project operations, the district court ultimate l y con c l u d e d that the only NE P A triggering action in the smel t case was the operation of t h e projects, not the issuance of th e BiOp, whi c h was required by law a s a conseque n c e of the effect s of the coordinated projects ' operatio n s . The appr o p r i a t e focu s is "Project operations," an d Reclamat i o n is the a p p r o p r i a t e lead agency. Reclamat i o n proposed the action (in the form of t h e Operatio n s and Crite r i a Plan ("OCAP")) to FWS, wh i c h triggere d the prepar a t i o n of the BiOp . Reclamation has the ongoing stat u t o r y authority to implement project operations a s prescribed by the OCAP. See, e.g., AR at 10 2 6 2 (BA at 1-1) ("The Bureau of Reclamat i o n (Reclama t i o n ) and the California Departme n t of Water Resources (DWR) propose to operate the Central Valley Project (CVP) and Stat e Water Pr o j e c t (SWP) to divert, store, and convey CVP and SWP (Project) wa t e r consistent with applicabl e law and contractual obligations."); AR at 10263-64 17 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 (BA at 1-2 - 1-3) (i d e n t i f y i n g certain laws authoriz i n g Bureau o p e r a t i o n of CVP); AR at 10270 - 7 1 (BA at 1-9 - 1-10) ( C o o r d i n a t e d Operation A g r e e m e n t ("COA") and P.L. 99-546 i m p o s e a "Congressi o n a l mandate to Reclamati o n to operate the CVP in conjunct i o n with the SWP. FWS's involvement with regard t o future Pro j e c t operations i s limited, consisti n g primarily of its obligation to ensure that those op e r a t i o n s do not impair protection and recovery of threaten e d and endangered species, an obligati o n that it s h a r e s with Reclamation. 16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)."). Id. at 2 7 - 2 8 . 6 The s m e l t NEPA decisio n concluded: In the f i n a l analysi s , FWS was asked for its "opinion " whether Re c l a m a t i o n ' s operations plans would je o p a r d i z e the smelt. FWS provided that opinion, as required by law. Reclamation was not "bound" by the BiOp until it chose to proceed with the OCAP and impleme n t the RPA. Once Reclamation did so, oper a t i o n of the Projects became the relevant agency " a c t i o n , " and Reclamation, as action agenc y , is the m o r e appropri a t e lead agency under NEPA. The adaptive management protocol prescribed in the RP A leaves F W S with the final word on exactly what fl o w requirem e n t s will be imposed. Reclamation accept e d this arr a n g e m e n t as a constraint upon its o p e r a t i o n s when it provis i o n a l l y acc e p t e d the RPA. FW S played a key role in formulat i o n , planning, and implementa t i o n of the R P A , with ful l knowledge that no NEPA complian c e had been undertaken. This is not a shell game in which the ag e n c i e s may leave the public t o guess wh i c h ag e n c y has taken major federal action. Th e Sm e l t NE P A D e c i s i o n a l s o fo u n d th a t R e c l a m a t i o n " h a s g r e a t e r exp e r t i s e c o n c e r n i n g the a l l e g e d a d v e r s e e n v i r o n m e n t a l e f f e c t s , " an d "ro u t i n e l y ex a m i n e s t h e s e an d re l a t e d im p a c t s as t h e l e a d o r co - l e a d age n c y on N E P A re v i e w s o f pr o p o s e d CVP - S W P o p e r a t i o n s an d f r e q u e n t l y h a s the a b i l i t y a n d a u t h o r i t y to p r o p o s e w a y s to m i t i g a t e th e s e i m p a c t s , " whi l e " F W S ha s li t t l e to n o ex p e r t i s e in o r au t h o r i t y ov e r ma n y o f th e s e mat t e r s . " Id . at 2 8 - 3 0 . Ul t i m a t e l y , as F e d e r a l D e f e n d a n t s a r g u e i n t h e i r sup p l e m e n t a l br i e f , D o c . 2 2 2 , th e a l l o c a t i o n o f NE P A r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s is lef t to t h e a g e n c i e s inv o l v e d in t h e f i r s t i n s t a n c e . Se e H e l l s C a n y o n Pre s e r v a t i o n Co u n c i l v. Ja c o b y , 9 F . S u p p . 2 d 12 1 6 , 12 4 1 (D . Or . 199 8 ) ( c o n c l u d i n g th a t "[ t ] h e d e s i g n a t i o n o f a le a d a g e n c y . . . i s a ma t t e r com m i t t e d t o ag e n c y d i s c r e t i o n a n d ... [ t h e r e is ] no t h i n g i n NE P A o r t h e reg u l a t i o n s s u g g e s t i n g t h a t th e co u r t s m a y o v e r r u l e th e det e r m i n a t i o n by the a g e n c i e s th a t a r e in v o l v e d t h a t on e or m o r e of t h e m wil l be l e a d age n c y or a g e n c i e s . " ) . 18 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 It is a close call w h e t h e r FWS's issuance of the BiOp and its RPA under th e s e circumstances is major federal action under NEPA. This call need not be made, be c a u s e Reclam a t i o n , the agency with the ultimate authority t o implement the RPA, is ... joined a s a party, w h o s e actions must be evaluate d under NE P A . Id. at 3 1 (emp h a s i s in original). Had ther e been no other N E P A - t r i g g e r i n g act i o n before the court, i t is a close call whether or not th e issu a n c e of t h e 2008 Sme l t BiO p itself wo u l d have triggered NEPA under Ramsey, which in effec t operates as a last resort mechani s m when federal action upon a pro j e c t would not otherwise require NEPA complian c e . H o w e v e r , because Reclamation is subj e c t to the jurisdic t i o n o f the court and Reclamation's opera t i o n of the projects to al l o c a t e subs t a n t i a l federal water re s o u r c e s under a coordi n a t e d operations plan constitutes major f e d e r a l action, it was unnecessar y to apply Ramsey to fin d tha t th e issuance of th e 2008 Smel t BiOp triggered NEPA. A simila r conc l u s i o n is warranted here. Reclamation's operatio n of t h e projects to comply with the 2009 Salmondid BiOp RPA s is m a j o r federa l action under NEPA. Al t h o u g h bo t h agencies parti c i p a t e d to some degree in imposing the RPAs upon project operat i o n s , the a g e n c i e s , not the c o u r t , are charg e d with all o c a t i n g NEPA resp o n s i b i l i t i e s . The court is simply required to ev a l u a t e whet h e r particular actions a r e "major federal action s significa n t l y affecting the human environment" 19 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 under NE P A . H e r e , the op e r a t i o n of the projects (i.e. the implemen t a t i o n of the RPA s as part of overall pro j e c t operatio n s ) , n o t the issu a n c e of the BiOp, consti t u t e s major federal action . 7 present here. Plaintif f s ' ar g u m e n t s tha t the 2009 Salmonid BiOp justifie s a di f f e r e n t res u l t are unpersuasive. A m o n g othe r Ramsey's unique circumstances ar e not things, Plaint i f f s emphas i z e that NMF S plays a continuing role in imple m e n t a t i o n of the 2009 Salmonid BiOp as a member of the Water Op e r a t i o n s Manageme n t Team ("WOMT"), jointl y (along with Reclamat i o n ) d e c i d i n g whether actions recom m e n d e d by t e c h n i c a l staff ar e cons i s t e n t with the RPA, and making "fi n a l determin a t i o n s " that prop o s e d operational actions are consiste n t wit h ESA oblig a t i o n s . For example, un d e r specified conditio n s , Re c l a m a t i o n m u s t consult monthly with NMFS regardin g Kesw i c k release s and submit a projected forecast to NMFS, wh i c h NM F S must rev i e w and provide recommen d a t i o n s to Reclamat i o n . 2009 Salmon i d BiOp at 598. Reclama t i o n may seek relaxati o n of release res t r i c t i o n s to meet other legal requirem e n t s " w i t h NMFS' concurrence." 7 2009 Salm o n i d BiOp at Th i s c o n c l u s i o n is c o n s i s t e n t w i t h NM F S ' s C o n s u l t a t i o n Han d b o o k , whi c h e x p l a i n s th a t N M F S ' s r o l e is to as s i s t t h e f e d e r a l "a c t i o n ag e n c y " in ev a l u a t i n g t h e i m p a c t s of p r o p o s e d ac t i o n s on t h e e n v i r o n m e n t an d "in t e g r a t i n g th e fo r m a l co n s u l t a t i o n p r o c e s s i n t o [t h e a c t i o n a g e n c y ' s ] ove r a l l e n v i r o n m e n t a l co m p l i a n c e . " FW S & NM F S C o n s u l t a t i o n H a n d b o o k a t 41 1 . Ju d i c i a l N o t i c e has p r e v i o u s l y be e n t a k e n o f th i s d o c u m e n t i n th e rel a t e d C o n s o l i d a t e d Del t a S m e l t C a s e s . S e e S a n L u i s & Del t a - M e n d o t a Wat e r A u t h o r i t y v . Sa l a z a r , -- - F. Sup p . 2 d -- - , 2 0 0 9 WL 34 2 8 4 8 7 , * 3 ( E . D . Cal . Oc t . 1 5 , 2 0 0 9 ) , ava i l a b l e a t : htt p : / / w w w . n m f s . n o a a . g o v / p r / p d f s / l a w s / e s a _ s e c t i o n 7 _ h a n d b o o k . p d f . 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 599. This is no dif f e r e n t than the 2008 Smelt BiOp, wh e r e the adaptive manag e m e n t proto c o l prescribed in the RP A leaves FWS with the final word on ex a c t l y what flow requirem e n t s will be imposed. Here , as w i t h the 2008 Smelt BiOp , "Rec l a m a t i o n accepted this arrangement as a constraint upon its ope r a t i o n s when it provis i o n a l l y acc e p t e d the RPA." Similarly, NMFS played a key r o l e in form u l a t i n g , planning, and i m p l e m e n t i n g the RPA. But, this does not change the fact that it is th e operatio n of t h e projects by Reclamation, not the issuance of the BiOp that triggers NE P A . It may well b e that Recl a m a t i o n as actio n agen c y must loo k to NMFS as the expert consulting agency f o r exp e r t i s e , gui d a n c e , and analysis in achieving NEPA complian c e to the extent such knowledge and acume n is unavaila b l e wi t h i n Reclam a t i o n . Plaintif f s ' ha l f - h e a r t e d invocation of 40 C . F . R . 1508.18( b ) ( 2 ) is unpersua s i v e . Section 1508.18(b ) ( 2 ) defines as major feder a l action " f o r m a l plans ... which guide or prescrib e alte r n a t i v e use s of federal resources, upon which future agency actions will be based." Plaintiffs suggest that NMFS's i s s u a n c e of the Bi O p triggers this provisi o n because the BiOp "tell s the CVP/SWP operators how, when, and i n wh a t quantiti e s to use their r e s o u r c e s to avoid jeopar d i z i n g species listed under the [ESA]." 21 Doc . 115 at 3. Agai n , u n t i l 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Reclamat i o n de t e r m i n e d th a t it would provisionall y accept the RPA's, t h e BiO p was not b i n d i n g upon Reclamation. NMFS had no way of k n o w i n g whether it s recommendations (in th e form of RPAs) wo u l d be accepted, accepted in part, or rej e c t e d outright . The BiOp did n o t "guide" or "prescribe " anything After Recla m a t i o n until it was p r o v i s i o n a l l y accepted. provisio n a l l y committed t o im p l e m e n t the RP A s , they be c a m e binding and ef f e c t i v e . N o party has suggested th a t NMFS has It the expe r t i s e or ability to implement the RPAs on its own. would be futil e to requir e NMFS to prepare NEPA d o c u m e n t a t i o n on a set of ac t i o n s that the action a g e n c y is free to disregar d or s u b s t a n t i a l l y modify. The major fed e r a l action here is implem e n t a t i o n of the RPAs as a par t of coordinate d project operat i o n s . Beca u s e of the nature of the adaptive manageme n t pro c e s s , both NMFS and the Bureau exer t some control over t h e implemen t a t i o n process. It is u p to the agencies to de t e r m i n e how to allocate NEPA respon s i b i l i t i e s among th e m s e l v e s and any other federal or state a g e n c i e s . Plaintif f s ' re f e r e n c e in their supplemental brief , Doc. 225, to Append i x A, Secti o n 4.01m of NOAA's NEPA Guideline s is unpersua s i v e . Section 4. 0 1 m defines "major feder a l action," An activ i t y , such as a plan, project or program, which ma y be fully or partially funded, regulated, conducte d , or approv e d by a Federal agency. "Major" reinforc e s , but does not have a meaning ind e p e n d e n t of "sign i f i c a n t l y " a s defined in Section 4.01.x. and 6.01. of this Order. Major actions require 22 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 preparat i o n of an EA or EIS u n l e s s covered by a CE (40 CFR 1508.18). CE Q ' s definition of "scope" regardin g the type of actions, the alternatives consider e d , and the impacts of the action should be used to assist deter m i n a t i o n s of the type of document (EA or E I S ) needed f o r NEPA complianc e (40 CFR 1508.25) . Plaintif f s sug g e s t that N M F S ' s issuance of the 20 0 9 Salmonid BiOp fal l s squ a r e l y withi n this definition of "ma j o r federal action" becaus e "NMFS is indisputably regul a t i n g the operatio n s of the [CVP] a n d [SWP]," and "[u]nder the BiOp NMFS will con d u c t a d a p t i v e management, [by making] regular and ongoing decisi o n s determining how the projects operate." 225 at 2-3 (em p h a s i s adde d ) . Doc. Plaintiffs overlook the cent r a l focus of secti o n 4.01m, t h a t major federal action is an "activit y , suc h as a plan , project or program." activity is th e operation of the projects. Here, the NMFS, as consulta n t , do e s regulate that activity, and part i c i p a t e s in controll i n g co n d u c t i n g pr o j e c t operations under t h e adaptive manageme n t pro t o c o l set f o r t h in the RPA along wi t h Reclamat i o n , t h e project operator, but this does not transform the issu a n c e o f the BiOp itself into a NEPA trigg e r i n g action. 8 Finally, Plain t i f f s cite Anacostia Wa t e r s h e d Soc. v. Babbitt, 871 F . Supp. 475 , 482 (D.D.C. 1994), whi c h addresses I n Ra m s e y , th e ac t i v i t y wa s no t c o n d u c t e d by a f e d e r a l ag e n c y , so the r e g u l a t i o n it s e l f (t h e b i o l o g i c a l op i n i o n ) c o n s t i t u t e d ma j o r fe d e r a l act i o n . He r e , ho w e v e r , wh e r e op e r a t i o n of t h e p r o j e c t s is pr i m a r i l y t h e res p o n s i b i l i t y of R e c l a m a t i o n , a l o n g w i t h DW R , R a m s e y is di s t i n g u i s h a b l e . 8 23 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 whether an age n c y may rel y on the NEPA compliance of another agency t o just i f y its own non-complia n c e . In Ana c o s t i a , the National Park Service ("N P S " ) , without performing any NEPA analysis of it s own, tran s f e r r e d jurisdiction ove r portions of a Nation a l Par k to the Di s t r i c t of Columbia for d e v e l o p m e n t of a theme park. NPS argued tha t its own NEPA obligations we r e satisfie d by p a s t and fut u r e NEPA compliance by a federal planning commi s s i o n charg e d with approving develo p m e n t concepts withi n the Distr i c t of Columbia. The di s t r i c t court rejected this contention, concluding that NPS mus t tak e it s own hard look at the envi r o n m e n t a l impacts. Id. at 48 4 . Critical l y , in Anacostia, it was undisputed that the developm e n t pr o j e c t const i t u t e d major federal act i o n . Anacosti a ther e f o r e sheds no light on whether the issuance of the 2009 Salmo n i d Bi O p , standing alone, constitutes major federal action . Ana c o s t i a me r e l y exp l a i n s that, once a major federal action is identif i e d , all agencies partic i p a t i n g in that act i o n be a r NEPA res p o n s i b i l i t i e s that canno t be absolved simply b e c a u s e another ag e n c y has engaged i n the NEPA process. Likewise , beca u s e NMFS pl a y s an integral role in formulating and requ i r i n g implementat i o n of the RPAs as part of overall project operat i o n s , NMFS is not be absolved of re s p o n s i b i l i t y under NE P A eve n if Reclam a t i o n comple t e d a NEPA review on its own. Ho w e v e r , Anacostia does not suggest that NMFS had to be 24 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 the lead agenc y in order to satisfy its own NEPA obligations, given th a t NMF S could par t i c i p a t e in the NEPA pro c e s s as a joint le a d age n c y or cons u l t i n g agency. 9 It is th e impl e m e n t a t i o n of the RPAs, as part of overall project operat i o n s , not t h e issuance of the BiOp, that is the "major f e d e r a l action" in this case. Both Reclam a t i o n and Under NEPA, it is NMFS par t i c i p a t e in imple m e n t i n g the RPAs. up to bo t h age n c i e s to allocate their NEPA compliance responsi b i l i t i e s on reman d . 10 3. Implemen t a t i o n of th e BiOp and its RPA Effect a Signific a n t Change t o the Operational Status Quo. Based on the d e t e r m i n a t i o n that it is Reclamation ' s implemen t a t i o n of the BiO p and its RPA, not the issuance o f the BiOp , that is the pro p e r focus of any NEPA in q u i r y , does Reclamat i o n ' s implementat i o n trigger NEPA obligat i o n s ? The relevant stand a r d s a r e de s c r i b e d in the Sme l t NEPA Decisio n : Projects such as the CVP and SWP, constructed pri o r P l a i n t i f f s al s o r e l y on Id a h o v. I C C , 35 F . 3d 5 8 5 ( D . C . Ci r . 1 9 9 4 ) , whi c h r e j e c t e d th e IC C ' s c o n t e n t i o n th a t i t ne e d n o t c o m p l y w i t h NE P A bec a u s e i t re q u i r e d a pr i v a t e ap p l i c a n t to c o n s u l t w i t h var i o u s f e d e r a l and s t a t e a g e n c i e s ab o u t s p e c i f i c e n v i r o n m e n t a l im p a c t s and r e t a i n e d jur i s d i c t i o n to m o n i t o r co m p l i a n c e wit h th e co n s u l t a t i o n re q u i r e m e n t s , hol d i n g t h a t "[ a ] n ag e n c y ca n n o t d e l e g a t e it s NE P A r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s i n thi s ma n n e r . . . . " H e r e , wh e r e no N E P A co m p l i a n c e h a s b e e n p e r f o r m e d a t all , NM F S h a s y e t t o att e m p t t o de l e g a t e i t s o w n N E P A re s p o n s i b i l i t i e s vis - - v i s p r o j e c t o p e r a t i o n s t o an o t h e r ag e n c y . 10 This is not an endorsement of D e f e n d a n t I n t e r v e n o r s ' ar g u m e n t th e dis t r i c t co u r t la c k s aut h o r i t y t o e n j o i n o p e r a t i o n o f as p e c t s o f th e R P A s bec a u s e N M F S ' s is s u a n c e of t h e B i O p it s e l f h a s n o t b e e n fou n d u n l a w f u l . Def e n d a n t I n t e r v e n o r s wa n t t o ha v e the i r c a k e an d ea t it to o . If , as the y ins i s t , R e c l a m a t i o n h a s th e fi n a l w o r d o n im p l e m e n t a t i o n of t h e B i O p , Rec l a m a t i o n ' s f a i l u r e to c o m p l y wi t h N E P A em p o w e r s t h i s Cou r t t o is s u e app r o p r i a t e i n j u n c t i v e r e l i e f ag a i n s t an y pa r t y ac t i n g i n c o n c e r t w i t h Rec l a m a t i o n , so l o n g as su c h i n j u n c t i v e re l i e f d o e s no t vio l a t e t h e E S A . 9 25 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 to the d a t e on which NEPA became effective, Janua r y 1, 1970, are not ret r o a c t i v e l y subject to NEPA. See Upper Sn a k e River Ch a p t e r of Trout Unlimited v. Hodel, 9 2 1 F.2d 232, 234 (9th Cir. 1990). "However, if an on g o i n g projec t undergoes changes which themselv e s amo u n t to major Federal actions, the operatin g agency mus t prepare an EIS." Id. at 234-35 (citing Andrus v. Si e r r a Club, 442 U.S. 347 , 363 n. 21 (1979 ) ( e x p l a i n i n g that major federal actions include the "expansi o n or revision of ongoing programs " ) ) . The cr i t i c a l in q u i r y is wheth e r the BiOp cau s e s a change to the operational status qu o of an exist i n g project. Upp e r S n a k e River, 921 F.2d at 235. Upper Sn a k e River concern e d Reclamation's d e c i s i o n to reduce f l o w s below P a l i s a d e s Dam and Reservoir to below 1, 0 0 0 cfs "[d] u e to lack of precipitation . . . to incre a s e water st o r e d for irrigation...." 921 F.2d at 234. Althou g h it had been st a n d a r d operating procedur e since 1956 to maintain flows below that dam above 1, 0 0 0 cfs, dur i n g previous dry periods, the average flow had "be e n lower than 1,000 cfs for 5 5 5 days (or 4.75% of th e total days in operation)." Id. at 233. Because the challenged flow fluctuations were wit h i n historic operational patterns, no NEP A complian c e was requi r e d : The Fede r a l defendants in this case had been operatin g the dam fo r upwards of ten years before the effe c t i v e date o f the Act. During that period, they have fr o m time to time and depending on the r i v e r ' s flow level, adjusted up or down the volu m e of water released from the Dam. What they did in prior ye a r s and what they were doing during t h e period un d e r consideration were no more tha n the routin e managerial actions regularl y carried on from the outset without change. They a r e sim p l y o p e r a t i n g the facility in the mann e r intended. In short, they are doing nothing new, nor mor e extensive, nor other than that con t e m p l a t e d wh e n the project was first operatio n a l . Its ope r a t i o n is and has been carried on and the c o n s e q u e n c e s have been no differen t than those in years past. The plai n t i f f s point out that flow ra t e s have been sig n i f i c a n t l y b e l o w 1,000 cfs for periods of seven da y s or more o n l y in water years 1977, 1982, an d 1988, all years of major drought. They also not e that prior to construction of the dam, 26 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 the lowe s t recorded flow rate did not fall below 1400 cfs . From these facts, they argue that the Bureau's reduction o f the flow below 1,000 cfs is not a ro u t i n e manage r i a l action. However, a particul a r flow rate will vary over time as changing weather con d i t i o n s dictate. In particul a r , low flows are the routine during drought years. What does not change is the Bureau's monitoring and control of the flow rate to ensur e that the m o s t practicable conservation of water is achieved in the Minidoka Irrigation Project. Such activi t y by the Bureau is routine. Id. at 2 3 5 - 3 6 (emphasis added). Westland s spec i f i c a l l y di s t i n g u i s h e d Upper Snake River, a n d reasoned that whether or not an EIS wa s required "will, of n e c e s s i t y , depend heavily upon the unique f a c t u a l circu m s t a n c e s of each case." 850 F. Supp. at 1415 (citin g Wes t s i d e Property Own e r s v. Schlesin g e r , 5 9 7 F.2d 1214, 1224 (9th Cir. 1979)). To some extent, the finding is based on whether the prop o s e d agency action and its environmental effects were within the contemplation of the original project whe n adopted or approved. See [Port of Astoria, Or . v. Hodel, 595 F . 2 d 467, 476 (9th Cir . 1979)]; Robinsw o o d Community Club [v. Volpe], 506 F.2d 136 6 [(9th Cir. 1974 ) ] . T h e inquiry requires a d e t e r m i n a t i o n of whether plaintif f s have comp l a i n e d of actions which may cause si g n i f i c a n t de g r a d a t i o n of the human environm e n t . [City and C o u n t y of San Francisco v. Unite d States, 615 F.2d 498, 500 (9th Cir. 1980)]. Westland s , 850 F. Su p p . a t 1415 [(emphasis added)]. In Westl a n d s " t h e taking of water for nona g r i c u l t u r a l purpose s [wa s ] alleged to have changed the oper a t i o n a l requ i r e m e n t s of the CVP, imposed new standard s for revers e flows in the Western Delta, carryove r storage in the Shasta reservoir, and ca u s e d closure of the Delta cross-channel. Such actions and the envi r o n m e n t a l ef f e c t s alleged are not routine manageri a l changes." Id. at 1421. Smelt NE P A Dec i s i o n at 33-35. the smel t case as follows : This approach was utili z e d in 27 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Federal Defend a n t s present the Declaration of Paul Fujitani , Doc. 290-2, whi c h includes a revi e w of historic OMR flows a n d compares those flows to projecte d flows unde r the RPA. Based on Fujitani ' s declarat i o n , Federal Defendants argue: As the a v a i l a b l e his t o r i c a l data show ... average OMR flow s in January have fluctuated from as high as -3,26 9 cfs (January 1998) to as low as -8,268 cfs (Jan u a r y 2003). Daily flows vary even more widely - for exampl e , in January 1998, daily OMR flows ra n g e d between 2,810 cfs and -9,530 cfs. See Ex. 1. The flows set forth in RPA Component 1, Actio n 2 are with i n these historic parameters. Similarl y , the histo r i c a l record shows average OMR flow s in Februar y have fluctuated from as high as 20,631 cfs ( F e b r u a r y 1997) to as low as 9 , 0 8 6 cf s (February 2003). The February flows set fort h in R P A Com p o n e n t 1, Action 2 are also within t h e s e histori c parameters. RPA Comp o n e n t 2 prov i d e s that under certain conditio n s , OMR flow s should be maintained between -1,250 and -5,000 cfs from the date Componen t 1 is compl e t e d until June 30 (or until water te m p e r a t u r e s a t Clifton Court Forebay reach 25 degre e s Celsius). The available historic data shows a wide range o f OMR flows between January and July , and the fl o w ranges set forth in RPA Componen t 2 are with i n these historic parameters. See Ex. 1. Therefor e , even afte r adopting the OMR flow restrict i o n s , Reclam a t i o n continues to operate the CVP within exist i n g law and the same overall flow par a m e t e r s , as it has done for decades. Id. at 2 2 - 2 3 . Plaintif f s respond w i t h the declaration of Thomas Boardman , Doc. 297-2, who opines that, under certain scenario s , the RPA c o n s t r a i n s export pumping in a manner t h a t departs from the status quo ante: I review e d historic data and considered how the 2008 BiO p might affe c t operations as compared to the pre- e x i s t i n g cri t e r i a in D-1641. Based upon my revie w of those d a t a , I found, in some circumst a n c e s , opera t i n g the CVP and SWP to meet pre-exis t i n g D-1641 crite r i a resulted in OMR flows mo r e positive than -1,2 5 0 cfs. If those circumst a n c e s occur, the new OMR criteria in the 28 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2008 BiO p would not control. I also found, in some cir c u m s t a n c e s , operating the CVP and SWP to meet the pre-existin g D-1641 criteria resulted in OMR flow s within the range specified by FWS pursuant to the 2008 BiOp. If those circumst a n c e s are pr e s e n t e d again, th e 2008 BiOp may cont r o l CVP and SWP operations, depending upon whe r e in the ra n g e FWS sets the OMR limit. In still other circu m s t a n c e s , however, I found the pre- e x i s t i n g D-1641 criteria allowed OMR flows mo r e negative than -5,0 0 0 cfs, the most negative flow rate a l l o w e d under the 2008 BiOp. If those circumstanc e s occur, the new operating criteria in the 2008 BiOp will definitely control CVP and SWP operatio n s . The changes in CVP and SWP oper a t i o n s neces s a r y to meet the new operatin g crit e r i a i n the 2008 BiOp will reduce availabi l i t y of the CVP and SWP to supply water. Id. at 9 . Boardman also conclu d e d that "[i]n 2009, limits o n OMR flow s imposed by FWS under the 2008 BiOp resu l t e d in lower rates of CV P and SWP pumping than otherwise would ha v e been allo w e d if only the preexisting criteria in D-1641 c o n t r o l l e d . " Id. at 10. Boardman estimates " t h a t as a result of the 2008 BiOp limits o n OMR flows from mid February to the end of March an d from mid M a y to the end of June, the Jones Pumping Plant was un a b l e to pump approximately 390,000 acre-f e e t of water that it otherwise could have pum p e d and prov i d e d to water users south of the Delta, i f only the p r e - e x i s t i n g crite r i a in D-1641 controll e d . " Id. Fujitani ' s and Board m a n ' s conclusions are n o t inconsis t e n t . Fujit a n i concludes that average an d daily OM R flows unde r the RPA fall within histori c average and daily fl o w ranges. Boardman opines t h a t , even tho u g h any give n post-RPA average or d a i l y OMR flow fig u r e may fall within historic ranges , under certain circumstance s , pre-RPA constraints would permit e v e n more neg a t i v e flows, resulting in eve n more exp o r t capabili t y . Although Fujitani's conclusi o n , that pos t - R P A ope r a t i o n s fall w i t h i n the range of historic op e r a t i n g conditions, may comply with the letter of Upper Snake River, the R P A ' s operatio n a l changes violate the spirit and reason i n g 29 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 of Upper Snake River: This cir c u i t has hel d that where a proposed federal action would not change the status quo, an EIS i s not necess a r y . "An EIS need not discuss the envi r o n m e n t a l ef f e c t s of mere continued operatio n of a facil i t y . " Bur b a n k Ant i - N o i s e Group v. Goldschmidt , 623 F.2 d 115, 116 (9th Cir. 1980) (h o l d i n g EIS u n n e c e s s a r y for federal financia l assistance in purchasing an existing airport since federa l action would not change status q u o ) , cert. d e n i e d , 450 U.S. 965 (1981); see also Committee f o r Auto Responsibility v. Solomon, 603 F . 2 d 99 2 (D. C . Cir. 1979) (holding governme n t lease of parking area to new parking manageme n t firm does not trigger EIS requirement since ar e a already u s e d for parking so no change in statu s quo). We find the reasonin g of the district court in County o f Trinity v. Andrus particularly instruct i v e . In Trinity the plaintiff s sought to enjoin t h e Bureau fr o m loweri n g the level of a reservoi r during the drought year of 1977 because of the p o t e n t i a l dam a g e to the fish population in the rese r v o i r . The c o u r t explained that the issue was "not whether the actions are of sufficient magnitud e to require the preparation of an EIS, but rath e r whether N E P A was intended to apply at all to t h e continuin g operations of completed faciliti e s . " Id. at 1388. The court distingu i s h e d the ca s e from cases "when a project takes pl a c e in incre m e n t a l stages of major proporti o n s , " and from cases where "a revision or expansio n of the ori g i n a l facilities is contempl a t e d , " id. N e i t h e r of these situations applied here, the co u r t observed. Instead, [t]he Bu r e a u has nei t h e r enlarged its capacity to divert w a t e r from the Trinity River no r revised its procedures or standard s for releas e s into the Trinity River an d the drawdo w n of reservoirs. It is simply o p e r a t i n g the Division within the range or i g i n a l l y ava i l a b l e pursuant to the authoriz i n g statute, in response to changing environm e n t a l condit i o n s . 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Id. at 1 3 8 8 - 8 9 . The court then concluded that actions taken in ope r a t i n g the system of dams and reservoi r s (in parti c u l a r , operational responses in a dro u g h t year) w e r e not "major Federal actions" within the meaning of NEPA. The Fede r a l defendan t s in thi s case had been operatin g the dam

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