PUD No. 1 of Jefferson Cty. v. Washington Dept. of Ecology

Decision Date31 May 1994
Docket NumberNo. 92-1911.,92-1911.
Citation511 U.S. 700
PartiesPUD NO. 1 OF JEFFERSON COUNTY et al. v. WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY et al.
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON

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O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Blackmun, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 723. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, J., joined, post, p. 724.

Howard E. Shapiro argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Michael A. Swiger, Gary D. Bachman, Albert R. Malanca, and Kenneth G. Kieffer.

Christine O. Gregoire, Attorney General of Washington, argued the cause for respondents. With her on the briefs were Jay J. Manning, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and William C. Frymire, Assistant Attorney General.

Deputy Solicitor General Wallace argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Acting Assistant Attorney General Schiffer, James A. Feldman, and Anne S. Almy.*

Justice O'Connor, delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, a city and a local utility district, want to build a hydroelectric project on the Dosewallips River in Washington State. We must decide whether respondent state environmental agency (hereinafter respondent) properly conditioned a permit for the project on the maintenance of specific minimum stream flows to protect salmon and steelhead runs.

I

This case involves the complex statutory and regulatory scheme that governs our Nation's waters, a scheme that implicates both federal and state administrative responsibilities. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act, 86 Stat. 816, as amended, 33 U. S. C. § 1251 et seq. , is a comprehensive water quality statute designed to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." § 1251(a). The Act also seeks to attain "water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife." § 1251(a)(2).

To achieve these ambitious goals, the Clean Water Act establishes distinct roles for the Federal and State Governments. Under the Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required, among other things, to establish and enforce technology-based limitations on individual discharges into the country's navigable waters from point sources. See §§ 1311, 1314. Section 303 of the Act also requires each State, subject to federal approval, to institute comprehensive water quality standards establishing water quality goals for all intrastate waters. §§ 1311(b) (1)(C), 1313. These state water quality standards provide "a supplementary basis . . . so that numerous point sources, despite individual compliance with effluent limitations, may be further regulated to prevent water quality from falling below acceptable levels." EPA v. California ex rel. State Water Resources Control Bd., 426 U. S. 200, 205, n. 12 (1976).

A state water quality standard "shall consist of the designated uses of the navigable waters involved and the water quality criteria for such waters based upon such uses." 33 U. S. C. § 1313(c)(2)(A). In setting standards, the State must comply with the following broad requirements:

"Such standards shall be such as to protect the public health or welfare, enhance the quality of water and serve the purposes of this chapter. Such standards shall be established taking into consideration their use and value for public water supplies, propagation of fish and wildlife, recreational and other purposes." Ibid.

See also § 1251(a)(2).

A 1987 amendment to the Clean Water Act makes clear that § 303 also contains an "antidegradation policy"—that is, a policy requiring that state standards be sufficient to maintain existing beneficial uses of navigable waters, preventing their further degradation. Specifically, the Act permits the revision of certain effluent limitations or water quality standards "only if such revision is subject to and consistent with the antidegradation policy established under this section." § 1313(d)(4)(B). Accordingly, EPA's regulations implementing the Act require that state water quality standards include "a statewide antidegradation policy" to ensure that "existing in stream water uses and the level of water quality necessary to protect the existing uses shall be maintained and protected." 40 CFR § 131.12 (1993). At a minimum, state water quality standards must satisfy these conditions. The Act also allows States to impose more stringent water quality controls. See 33 U. S. C. §§ 1311(b)(1)(C), 1370. See also 40 CFR § 131.4(a) (1993) ("As recognized by section 510 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U. S. C. § 1370, States may develop water quality standards more stringent than required by this regulation").

The State of Washington has adopted comprehensive water quality standards intended to regulate all of the State's navigable waters. See Washington Administrative Code (WAC) XXX-XXX-XXX to XXX-XXX-XXX (1986). The State created an inventory of all the State's waters, and divided the waters into five classes. XXX-XXX-XXX. Each individual fresh surface water of the State is placed into one of these classes. XXX-XXX-XXX. The Dosewallips River is classified AA, extraordinary. XXX-XXX-XXX(32). The water quality standard for Class AA waters is set forth at XXX-XXX-XXX(1). The standard identifies the designated uses of Class AA waters as well as the criteria applicable to such waters.1

In addition to these specific standards applicable to Class AA waters, the State has adopted a statewide antidegradation policy. That policy provides:

"(a) Existing beneficial uses shall be maintained and protected and no further degradation which would interfere with or become injurious to existing beneficial uses will be allowed.
"(b) No degradation will be allowed of waters lying in national parks, national recreation areas, national wildlife refuges, national scenic rivers, and other areas of national ecological importance.

. . . . .

"(f) In no case, will any degradation of water quality be allowed if this degradation interferes with or becomes injurious to existing water uses and causes long-term and irreparable harm to the environment." XXX-XXX-XXX(8).

As required by the Act, EPA reviewed and approved the State's water quality standards. See 33 U. S. C. § 1313(c)(3); 42 Fed. Reg. 56792 (1977). Upon approval by EPA, the state standard became "the water quality standard for the applicable waters of that State." 33 U. S. C. § 1313(c)(3).

States are responsible for enforcing water quality standards on intrastate waters. § 1319(a). In addition to these primary enforcement responsibilities, § 401 of the Act requires States to provide a water quality certification before a federal license or permit can be issued for activities that may result in any discharge into intrastate navigable waters. 33 U. S. C. § 1341. Specifically, § 401 requires an applicant for a federal license or permit to conduct any activity "which may result in any discharge into the navigable waters" to obtain from the State a certification "that any such discharge will comply with the applicable provisions of sections 1311, 1312, 1313, 1316, and 1317 of this title." 33 U. S. C. § 1341(a). Section 401(d) further provides that "any certification . . . shall set forth any effluent limitations and other limitations, and monitoring requirements necessary to assure that any applicant . . . will comply with any applicable effluent limitations and other limitations, under section 1311 or 1312 of this title . . . and with any other appropriate requirement of State law set forth in such certification." 33 U. S. C. § 1341(d). The limitations included in the certification become a condition on any federal license. Ibid.2

II

Petitioners propose to build the Elkhorn Hydroelectric Project on the Dosewallips River. If constructed as presently planned, the facility would be located just outside the Olympic National Park on federally owned land within the Olympic National Forest. The project would divert water from a 1.2-mile reach of the river (the bypass reach), run the water through turbines to generate electricity and then return the water to the river below the bypass reach. Under the Federal Power Act (FPA), 41 Stat. 1063, as amended, 16 U. S. C. § 791a et seq., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority to license new hydroelectric facilities. As a result, petitioners must get a FERC license to build or operate the Elkhorn Project. Because a federal license is required, and because the project may result in discharges into the Dosewallips River, petitioners are also required to obtain state certification of the project pursuant to § 401 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U. S. C. § 1341.

The water flow in the bypass reach, which is currently undiminished by appropriation, ranges seasonally between 149 and 738 cubic feet per second (cfs). The Dosewallips supports two species of salmon, coho and chinook, as well as steelhead trout. As originally proposed, the project was to include a diversion dam which would completely block the river and channel approximately 75% of the river's water into a tunnel alongside the streambed. About 25% of the water would remain in the bypass reach, but would be returned to the original riverbed through sluice gates or a fish ladder. Depending on the season, this would leave a residual minimum flow of between 65 and 155 cfs in the river. Respondent undertook a study to determine the minimum stream flows necessary to protect the salmon and steelhead fishery in the bypass reach. On June 11, 1986, respondent issued a § 401 water quality certification imposing a variety of conditions on the project, including a...

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