Environmental Review of Western Water Project Operations: Where NEPA Has Not Applied, Will It Now Protect Farmers from Fish?
Reed D. Benson
October 1, 2010
UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2011
UNM School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-02
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates hundreds of dams in seventeen western states, and storage and release of water at these dams often causes serious environmental impacts. In operating these dams, however, the Bureau has largely been excused from complying with the environmental review requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. This article explains and analyzes relevant NEPA cases involving these Bureau projects, and argues that the Bureau may want to conduct NEPA reviews for project operations even if they are not legally required. It also describes and critiques District Judge Oliver Wanger’s recent decisions applying NEPA to the Bureau’s efforts to comply with the Endangered Species Act in operating the Central Valley Project. The article concludes that the Bureau should use NEPA as a tool for making long-term decisions on project operations, but that courts should not insist on NEPA compliance that would interfere with efforts to protect endangered species.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 63
Date posted: November 5, 2010 ; Last revised: June 5, 2015