(CN) – A state agency qualifies as a “person” under the California Endangered Species Act, and any interpretation otherwise would go against logic and common sense, the 1st Appellate District ruled.
The case revolved around pumping water to inland regions by the California Department of Water Resources, which affects three species: the endangered winter-run chinook salmon, he threatened spring-run chinook and the Delta smelt.
Watershed Enforcers, a branch of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, took the agency to court, claiming it failed to get permits for water pumping that would affect the species.
Although the department eventually complied with a writ requiring it to obtain the permits, mooting the case, the appeals court still issued a ruling because “the issue is one of general public interest which is likely to recur.”
The agency claimed that the state Endangered Species Act did not apply to it, as the law defines person as “any natural person or any partnership, corporation, limited liability company, trust, or other type of association.”
The California Court of Appeal rejected this argument, pointing out that state Fish and Game code from 1957 includes state agencies in the definition of “person.”
Not applying the law to state agencies “would lead to the unreasonable result that major actors, whose operations result in the taking of endangered and threatened species, would be exempt from the general take prohibition,” Justice Marchiano wrote for the three-judge panel.
The Kern County Water Agency, San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority, and the Westlands Water District had intervened on the losing side.