Natural Resources Defense Council v. Patterson, Civ. No. S-88-1658 LKK.

Citation791 F. Supp. 1425
Decision Date30 April 1992
Docket NumberCiv. No. S-88-1658 LKK.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
PartiesNATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, Trout Unlimited of California, Bay Institute of San Francisco, California Natural Resources Federation, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Trout, Friends of the River, Northern California Guides Association, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Sierra Club, Stanislaus Audubon Society, Inc., United Anglers of California, California Striped Bass Association, and National Audubon Society, Plaintiffs, v. Roger PATTERSON, as Regional Director of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Manual LUJAN, Jr., as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and Friant Water Users Authority, Defendants, Orange Cove Irrigation District, Lindmore Irrigation District, Lindsay-Strathmore Irrigation District, Terra Bella Irrigation District, Exeter Irrigation District, Ivanhoe Irrigation District, Tulare Irrigation District, Lower Tule River Irrigation District, Saucelito Irrigation District, Delano-Earlimont Irrigation District, Teapot Dome Water District, Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, Porterville Irrigation District, Stone Corral Irrigation District, Chowchilla Water District, Madera Irrigation District, Defendants/Intervenors.


John B. Clark, Philip F. Atkins-Pattenson, Cinthia R. Fischer, Janet M. Alexander, Pettit & Martin, Hamilton Candee, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laurens H. Silver, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc., and Patrick O'Donnell, Levy, Samrick & Bernard, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs.

Kenneth A. Kuney, Berryhill & Kuney, Tulare, Cal., Ernest A. Conant, Scott K. Kuney, Young, Wooldridge, Paulden, Self & Farr, Bakersfield, Cal., Jan L. Kahn, Daniel M. Dooley, Kahn, Soares & Conway, Visalia, Cal., Jeffrey A. Meith, Michael V. Sexton, Minasian, Minasian, Minasian, Spruance, Baber, Meith & Soares, Oroville, Cal., Denslow Green, Green, Green & Rigby, Madera, Cal., and Gary W. Sawyers, Bolen, Fransen & Boostrom, Fresno, Cal., for nonfederal defendants.

George L. O'Connell, U.S. Atty., Maria A. Iizuka, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Div., Sacramento, Cal., K. Jack Haugrud and Eileen Sobeck, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Div., Washington, D.C., for defendant U.S. (federal defendants).


KARLTON, Chief Judge Emeritus.

Plaintiffs, various environmental groups, seek to enjoin the Bureau of Reclamation ("Bureau") from entering into renewal contracts to supply water from the Friant Dam unit of the Central Valley Project.1 They allege violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4332, the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1536, the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706, and various federal regulations and guidelines promulgated under those statutes.

On January 7, 1992, plaintiffs were granted leave to amend to assert an APA claim premised on the Bureau's alleged violation of Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 ("Section 8").2 Plaintiffs maintain that Section 8 mandates compliance by the Bureau, as owner of Friant Dam, with California Fish & Game Code § 59373 and that the Bureau has failed to comply with this state law.4

Both the federal and non-federal defendants, the irrigation and water districts supplied by the dam, now move to dismiss this cause of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They argue that plaintiffs lack standing to assert this claim and that in any event Section 8 does not mandate the federal government's compliance with § 5937. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion is denied.5



On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks International Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n. 6, 83 S.Ct. 1461, 1465 n. 6, 10 L.Ed.2d 678 (1963). Thus, the plaintiff need not necessarily plead a particular fact if that fact is a reasonable inference from facts properly alleged. Id. See also Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647, 648, 83 S.Ct. 1441, 1443, 10 L.Ed.2d 605 (1963) (inferring fact from allegations of complaint).

In general, the complaint is construed favorably to the pleader. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). So construed, the court may not dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim which would entitle him or her to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). In spite of the deference the court is bound to pay to the plaintiff's allegations, however, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the plaintiff can prove facts which he or she has not alleged, or that the defendants have violated the ... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated General Contractors v. California State Council, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S.Ct. 897, 902, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983).


A motion addressed to standing questions "whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). It raises a legal question addressed to the allegations of the complaint, see Public Agencies Opposed to Social Security Entrapment v. Heckler ("POSSE"), 613 F.Supp. 558, 566 (E.D.Cal.1985), rev'd on other grounds, 477 U.S. 41, 106 S.Ct. 2390, 91 L.Ed.2d 35 (1986), and not the merits of the case. POSSE, 613 F.Supp. at 566. For this reason, in ruling on a motion to dismiss for want of standing the court accepts the allegations of the complaint as true and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. MWAA v. CAAN, 501 U.S. ___, ___, 111 S.Ct. 2298, 2305-06, 115 L.Ed.2d 236, 251 (1991) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. at 2206).

To establish standing to sue under the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 702, plaintiffs must allege that they have suffered an injury in fact and must demonstrate that this injury falls within the "zone of interests" sought to be protected by the statutory provision which provides the legal basis for their complaint. Air Courier Conference v. American Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. ___, ___, 111 S.Ct. 913, 917-18, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125, 1134 (1991). The injury-infact requirement is an Article III mandate, while the "zone of interests" requirement is a nonconstitutional, prudential limitation on the exercise of jurisdiction. Port of Astoria, Oregon v. Hodel, 595 F.2d 467, 474 (9th Cir.1979). See also Fair v. United States EPA, 795 F.2d 851 (9th Cir.1986).

A. Injury in Fact

Defendants do not argue that plaintiffs have failed to allege sufficient actual injury, nor could they. The complaint alleges that many of plaintiffs' members earn their living from the San Joaquin River and its environs and engage in recreational activities on the river. They allege economic and recreational damage suffered by members occasioned by the drying up of the San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam resulting from the Bureau's delivery of water pursuant to the original contracts and that they will continue to suffer those losses should the contracts be renewed. These allegations are sufficient to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for standing purposes. State of Cal. etc. v. Watt, 683 F.2d 1253, 1270 (9th Cir.1982), rev'd on other grounds, 464 U.S. 312, 104 S.Ct. 656, 78 L.Ed.2d 496 (1984). See also Sierra Club v. Watt, 608 F.Supp. 305, 314-15 (E.D.Cal.1985).

B. Zone of Interests

The APA standing section, 5 U.S.C. § 702, does not contain a "zone of interests" test. The Supreme Court supplied this gloss as a means of implementing what it described as Congress' intent to broaden remedies, but not to allow suit by every person suffering injury in fact. Clarke v. Securities Industry Ass'n, 479 U.S. 388, 395, 107 S.Ct. 750, 754, 93 L.Ed.2d 757 (1987).6

The first step in "zone of interests" analysis is identification of the statute by which the zone of interest is measured. "The relevant statute under the APA, of course, is the statute whose violation is the gravamen of the complaint." Air Courier, 498 U.S. at ___, 111 S.Ct. at 921, 112 L.Ed.2d at 1138 (quoting Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, ___, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3186-87, 111 L.Ed.2d 695, 714 (1990)). The court is to look only to the relevant statute unless another statute is found to bear an "integral relationship" to the underlying statute. Air Courier, 498 U.S. at ___, 111 S.Ct. at 920-21, 112 L.Ed.2d at 1137-38. Where this relationship exists, a court may look to both statutes. Id.

At oral argument, all parties agreed that to determine the "zone of interest" in the matter at bar the court is to look to both Section 8 and to § 5937. The court agrees. Under the pleadings, Section 8 and § 5937 bear an integral relationship with each other, since plaintiffs allege that Section 8's incorporation of state law "relating to the control, appropriation, use or distribution of water used in irrigation" incorporates § 5937.7 See Marshall & Ilsley Corp. v. Heimann, 652 F.2d 685, 695-98 (7th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 981, 102 S.Ct. 1489, 71 L.Ed.2d 691 (1982), and State of Idaho ex rel. Robson v. First Security Bank, 315 F.Supp. 274 (S.D. Idaho 1970).

Once the court has determined the relevant statute, it must examine whether the interest...

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