Blow to Imperial County Over Water Transfer

     (CN) – No violation of clean-air laws occurred in approving the transfer of Colorado River water from California’s inland counties to coastal cities, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.
     Imperial County and the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District challenged the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement (CRWDA) in 2009, alleging that it would give more of California’s river allocation to coastal cities, to the detriment of the state’s eastern desert bread basket and the Salton Sea, a wildlife refuge and the largest lake in the state.
     The county claimed that the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act or the Clean Air Act in approving the agreement, and that the transfers would expose additional shore line on the Salton Sea and leave some farmlands fallow, both of which would increase dust pollution in the region. Opponents also said that the transfer would hurt the farming industry in the region and cause unemployment.
     Finding that the county lacked standing the challenge the agreement, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia ruled for the government and various state intervenors in 2012.
     A three-judge appeals panel instead cited deference to agency decisions in affirming Monday.
     They said the plaintiffs had established standing by alleging procedural violations and including in their complaint specific facts about their air-quality and other worries.
     It was not abuse of discretion, however, for the government to approve the agreement, the panel added, finding that such approval sufficiently addressed all of the plaintiffs’ concerns.
     “The Implementation Agreement EIS [environmental impact study] discussed the impact that the CRWDA will have on air quality, responded to EPA concerns about the Salton Sea’s shoreline, and incorporated by reference the detailed air quality discussion in the Transfer EIS,” Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote for the panel. “That was sufficient.”
     An attorney for Imperial County did not immediately return a request for comment.

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