WARM SPRINGS DAM TASK FORCE V. GRIBBLE

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustia & Oyez
Citation417 U. S. 1301
Decision Date17 June 1974

Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble

No. A-1146

Decided June 17, 1974

417 U.S. 1301


ON APPLICATION FOR STAY

Syllabus

Application for stay, pending disposition of appeal by Court of Appeals, of District Court's order denying applicants' motion for a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the Warm Springs Dam Project in California on the ground that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) filed by the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the project did not adequately deal with alleged seismic and water poisoning problems presented by the project and failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is granted, the Council on Environmental Quality, the agency ultimately responsible for administration of the NEPA, in a letter applicants filed with this Court, taking the position that the EIS is deficient in the respects noted.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, Circuit Justice.

Applicants brought an action on March 22, 1974, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and sought a preliminary injunction to halt further construction in connection with the Warm Springs Dam-Lake Sonoma Project on Dry and Warm Springs Creeks in the Russian River Basin, Sonoma County, California. The applicants alleged, inter alia, that the Environmental Impact Statement filed by the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the project did not comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. A hearing was held in the District Court on the motion for a preliminary injunction. On May 23, 1974, the District

Page 417 U. S. 1302

Court rendered an oral ruling denying applicants' motion for the injunction. [Footnote 1] A written opinion was filed thereafter. Applicants filed an application in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for an injunction pending appeal, which was denied on May 24, 1974.

Application was then made to me as Circuit Justice for the Ninth Circuit seeking a stay of the order of the District Court as well as a stay restraining further construction work on the Warm Springs Dam Project. Because of the seriousness of the claims made by the applicants, I issued an order, on May 30, 1974, staying further disturbance of the soil in connection with the dam (other than research, investigation, planning and design activity) "pending reconsideration of the application when the memoranda of the Solicitor General and the Environmental Protection Agency are received."

A response has been filed, along with further materials submitted by the applicants supporting their request for a stay. After consideration of these submissions, I have entered an order continuing my earlier stay order pending disposition of the appeal in this case by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Warm Springs Dam will be an earth-fill dam, holding back a reservoir of water, across Dry Creek, a major tributary of the Russian River in Sonoma County. The dam was first authorized, in smaller form than is now contemplated, in the Flood Control Act of 1962, Pub.L. 87-874, 76 Stat. 1173, 1192. On January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the filing of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C),

Page 417 U. S. 1303

became law. A draft EIS was not distributed until June, 1973, and the final EIS was not filed with the Council on Environmental Quality until December 4, 1973. I am informed that approximately million has been expended on the project already, and that another million will be expended before this case will be heard and determined by the Court of Appeals.

The applicants for this stay focus on two extremely serious challenges to the adequacy of the EIS.

First, they note that the dam will sit atop a geologic fault running along Dry Creek. There are other faults nearby. A town of 5,000 people is nestled below the dam and the wall of water it will restrain. At the District Court hearing on applicants' motion for a preliminary injunction, substantial questions were raised about the integrity of the dam should an earthquake occur. There seems to be a recognized "credibility gap" as to the safety of the project; recommendations were received by the Corps from its own staff for further study; and reservations about the safety factor were expressed by the State of California. A contract has been made for further dynamic analysis of the safety of the dam. Should that analysis indicate that the dam is potentially risky, the Corps would have "no choice" but to consider abandoning the entire project. Tr. 1828-1829, 1832.

Second, challenges were made at the hearing to the adequacy of the EIS regarding expected poisoning of water in the reservoir behind the dam. The water will be used by consumers in the surrounding county. There were allegations at the hearing that the waters will be poisoned by mercury carried from an abandoned mercury mine which will be inundated when the dam is built, and that asbestos, fluoride, and boron particles will also leach into the waters. It is contended that the EIS is deficient in its treatment of these significant environmental effects.

Page 417 U. S. 1304

The District Court rejected these contentions, finding that the Corps adequately dealt with the seismic problem and the water poisoning problem. It found the EIS adequate. The Solicitor General argues that the District Court's findings are not "clearly erroneous" and will be upheld by the Court of Appeals, and that, therefore, I should deny the requested stay.

Here, however, the views of the two federal agencies most intimately familiar with environmental issues and the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act have been filed with the Court. They undermine the determination of the District Court.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has written to the Solicitor General expressing some doubt about the treatment of the water poisoning issues in the final EIS. [Footnote 2] The EPA goes on to say, however, that:

"We wish to emphasize that the CEQ [Council on

Page 417 U. S. 1305

Environmental Quality] is the Executive Office charged with NEPA administration and ultimately with evaluating the performance of Federal agencies in complying with the Act. We...

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14 practice notes
  • Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal., Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, Civil Action No. 2:12-6689
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • August 18, 2014
    ...of NEPA by other agencies. See Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 357-358 (1979); Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1310 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers) (affording "great weight" to CEQ determinations); Executive Order 11,991, 42 Fed.Page 10Reg. 26,967 (May 24, 1977......
  • Mobil Oil Corp. v. FTC, No. 75 Civ. 2748 (JMC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • March 1, 1977
    ...(h) of Executive Order 11514, March 5, 1970, 35 Fed.Reg. 4247 (42 U.S.C. ? 4321, at 413); see Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1309-10, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J. as Circuit Justice), the CEQ issued an Advisory Memorandum on the "Application of t......
  • Crosby v. Young, Civ. A. No. 81-70844.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 24, 1981
    ...deference. Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 358, 99 S.Ct. 2335, 2341, 60 L.Ed.2d 943 (1979); Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1309-1310, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 2546-2547, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers). The alternatives that CEQ has recommended for examin......
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. S.E.C., No. 77-1761
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 20, 1979
    ...of the NEPA and most familiar with its requirements for Environmental Impact Statements," Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1310, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 2547, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers), CEQ's views on agency compliance Vel non with NEPA receive attention ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal., Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, Civil Action No. 2:12-6689
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • August 18, 2014
    ...of NEPA by other agencies. See Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 357-358 (1979); Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1310 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers) (affording "great weight" to CEQ determinations); Executive Order 11,991, 42 Fed.Page 10Reg. 26,967 (May 24, 1977......
  • Mobil Oil Corp. v. FTC, No. 75 Civ. 2748 (JMC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • March 1, 1977
    ...(h) of Executive Order 11514, March 5, 1970, 35 Fed.Reg. 4247 (42 U.S.C. ? 4321, at 413); see Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1309-10, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J. as Circuit Justice), the CEQ issued an Advisory Memorandum on the "Application of t......
  • Crosby v. Young, Civ. A. No. 81-70844.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 24, 1981
    ...deference. Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 358, 99 S.Ct. 2335, 2341, 60 L.Ed.2d 943 (1979); Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1309-1310, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 2546-2547, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers). The alternatives that CEQ has recommended for examin......
  • Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. S.E.C., No. 77-1761
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 20, 1979
    ...of the NEPA and most familiar with its requirements for Environmental Impact Statements," Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1310, 94 S.Ct. 2542, 2547, 41 L.Ed.2d 654 (1974) (Douglas, J., in chambers), CEQ's views on agency compliance Vel non with NEPA receive attention ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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