This 80-page opinion is way too complicated and above my pay scale to give you any decent summary or my view of the decision, but I love a decision that starts out by quoting Steinbeck's East of Eden and includes multiple color maps of the Delta region (which largely mirrors the EDCA borders). Fresno Bee, 12/22/14
Here's an excerpt from Chief Judge Tallman's opinion:
This case is about the competing demands for these limited water resources. In 2006 the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”), the federal agency that oversees water resources in the West, asked the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) to evaluate under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) the impact of continuing water extraction in the Central Valley on certain threatened and endangered Salmonid species that live there. In response, NMFS developed a Biological Opinion (“BiOp”) in which it determined that Reclamation’s proposed project would jeopardize some of the Delta’s endangered Salmonids. See generally 2009 Salmonid BiOp at 574–75. To remedy this problem, NMFS required Reclamation to change the way it pumps water out of the Valley’s rivers. See id. at ch. 11. A number of groups that depend on the Central Valley’s water sued to halt this change. On summary judgment, the district court found that NMFS had violated the Administrative Procedure Act’s (“APA”) arbitrary or capricious standard when developing much of the BiOp. See generally In re Consolidated Salmonid Cases, 791 F. Supp. 2d 802, 955–59 (E.D. Cal. 2011); 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(a) (2012). Defendants—joined by environmental groups—appealed, and once again we enter the fray.
We hold that the district court did not give NMFS the substantial deference it is due under the APA. On independent record review, we find that the components of the BiOp invalidated by the district court are reasonable and supported by the record. As a result, we uphold the BiOp in its entirety. We, therefore, REVERSE and REMAND for entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants.