635 F.3d 505 (Fed. Cir. 2011), 2007-5115, Klamath Irr. Dist. v. United States
|Citation:||635 F.3d 505|
|Opinion Judge:||SCHALL, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||KLAMATH IRRIGATION DISTRICT, Tulelake Irrigation District, Klamath Drainage District, Poe Valley Improvement District, Sunnyside Irrigation District, Klamath Basin Improvement District, Klamath Hills District Improvement Co., Midland District Improvement Co., Malin Irrigation District, Enterprise Irrigation District, Pine Grove Irrigation District,|
|Attorney:||Roger J. Marzulla, Marzulla Law, of Washington, DC, argued for plaintiffs-appellants. With him on the brief was Nancie G. Marzulla. Of counsel was Gregory T. Jaeger. Katherine J. Barton, Attorney, Appellate Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, ...|
|Judge Panel:||Before BRYSON, SCHALL, and GAJARSA, Circuit Judges. Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge SCHALL. Opinion concurring-in-part and concurring in the judgment filed by Circuit Judge GAJARSA. GAJARSA, Circuit Judge, concurring-in-part and concurring-in-judgment.|
|Case Date:||February 17, 2011|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit|
Plaintiffs-Appellants (" plaintiffs" ) are fourteen water, drainage, and irrigation districts and thirteen agricultural landowners in Oregon and California.1 Plaintiffs appeal the final judgment of the United States Court of Federal Claims that, based on two separate summary judgment decisions, dismissed their Fifth Amendment takings claims, their claims under the Klamath River Basin Compact, Pub.L. No. 85-222, 71 Stat. 497 (1957) (the " Klamath Basin Compact" or the " Compact" ), and their breach of contract claims. See Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States, 67 Fed.Cl. 504 (2005) ( " Takings Decision " ); Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States, 75 Fed.Cl. 677 (2007) (" Contract Decision " ).
On July 16, 2008, we certified three questions relating to the takings and Compact claims to the Oregon Supreme Court. See Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States, 532 F.3d 1376 (Fed.Cir.2008) (" Certification Order " ). The certification was pursuant to a procedure whereby unsettled questions of state law may be certified to the Oregon Supreme Court. See Or.Rev.Stat. §§ 28.200-28.255 (2010). Pending action by the Oregon court, we withheld decision on all of plaintiffs' claims. The Oregon Supreme Court accepted the case for certification, Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States, 345 Or. 638, 202 P.3d 159 (2009), and on March 11, 2010, the court rendered its decision, answering our certified questions. See Klamath Irrigation Dist. v. United States, 348 Or. 15, 227 P.3d 1145 (Or.2010) (en banc) (" Certification Decision " ).
We now vacate the judgment of the Court of Federal Claims and remand the case to the court for further proceedings. On remand, the court is to (1) consider the takings and Compact claims in light of the Certification Decision ; (2) determine whether, as far as the breach of contract claims are concerned, the government can establish that, for purposes of its defense based on the sovereign acts doctrine, contract performance was impossible; and (3)
decide the breach of contract claims as appropriate.
Plaintiffs are users of water in the Klamath River Basin. Located in southern Oregon and northern California, the Klamath River Basin is the drainage basin of the Klamath River, the Lost River, and the Link River, as well as various other rivers. Water flow from Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon into the lower Klamath River is controlled by the Link River Dam. Upper Klamath Lake has a shallow depth and limited water capacity that fluctuates with wet and dry periods; thus, downstream flow to lower portions of the Klamath River and ultimately the Klamath River Basin is affected by droughts. See Takings Decision, 67 Fed.Cl. at 509-10.
The Klamath Irrigation Project (the " Klamath Project" or the " Project" ) is an irrigation project that benefits primarily southern Oregon and portions of northern California, including the Klamath River Basin. The Project has its origins in the Reclamation Act of 1902, ch. 1093, 32 Stat. 388 (codified, as amended, at 43 U.S. C. § 371 et seq. ) (the " Reclamation Act" ). The Reclamation Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to reclaim arid lands in certain western states through irrigation projects. In 1905, Congress authorized the development of the Klamath Project. See Act of February 9, 1905, ch. 567, 33 Stat. 714. Shortly thereafter, the Oregon legislature passed its own reclamation legislation. Among other things, that legislation created a procedure to assist the United States in appropriating water for the irrigation works contemplated by the Reclamation Act. See Or. Gen. Laws, 1905, ch. 228, § 2 (the " 1905 Act" ) (repealed 1953); see also Or. Gen. Laws, 1905, ch. 5, §§ 1-2 (authorizing the United States to both raise and lower the lakes associated with the Klamath River Basin and also to use the beds of those lakes for water storage in connection with irrigation projects).
The Klamath Project is managed and operated by the Secretary of the Interior, through the United States Bureau of Reclamation (the " Bureau" ). The Project provides water to about 240,000 acres of irrigable crop lands. It also provides water to several national wildlife refuges in the Klamath River Basin, including the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges. Over the years, the Bureau has entered into various types of contracts with water districts and individual water users who wish to receive deliveries of Project water for irrigation purposes. In one way or another, each of the plaintiffs receives delivery of water from the Klamath Project for irrigation purposes.
In light of its dual purposes of serving agricultural uses and providing for the needs of wildlife, the Klamath Project is subject to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. See Pub.L. No. 93-205, 87 Stat. 884 (1973) (codified, as amended, at 16 U.S. C. § 1531 et seq. ) (the " ESA" ). In a 1999 Ninth Circuit decision, the interests of Project water users were declared subservient to the ESA, the result being that, as necessary, the Bureau has a duty to control the operation of the Link River Dam in order to satisfy the requirements of the ESA. See Klamath Water Users Protective Ass'n v. Patterson, 204 F.3d 1206, 1213 (9th Cir.1999) (noting that the ESA was enacted to " halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost. " ) (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted), amended by 203 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir.2000).
Pursuant to the ESA, the Bureau has an obligation not to engage in any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of an endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat of such a species. See 16 U.S. C. § 1536(a)(1). As a result, the Bureau is required to perform biological assessments to determine the impact of the diversion of Klamath Project water for irrigation purposes upon endangered and threatened species and to adjust water delivery to minimize the impact upon the habitat of such species. See 16 U.S. C. § 1536(a)(2), (c)(1).
Shortly after the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Patterson, several environmental organizations filed suit against the Bureau in federal court for alleged failure to comply with the ESA in preparing Klamath Project operating plans. See Pac. Coast Fed'n of Fishermen's Ass'ns v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 138 F.Supp.2d 1228, 1238 (N.D.Cal.2001). During the pendency of that case, in the spring of 2001, severe drought conditions caused the Bureau to reevaluate its planned water deliveries for the year 2001. Several federal agencies indicated that water levels in the Klamath River Basin had become so low as to threaten the survival of certain endangered species, including the coho salmon, the shortnose suckerfish, and the Lost River suckerfish. See Takings Decision, 67 Fed.Cl. at 512-13. In due course, the Bureau forwarded biological assessments of the Project's proposed operations to the two agencies authorized to issue final biological opinions for those species; the National Marine Fisheries Service (for coho salmon) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (for suckerfish). The two agencies performed their...
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