Missouri River Injunction Still in Effect
A federal judge advanced part of a controversial water diversion plan, but continued a 2005 injunction that prohibits the project from fully proceeding.
The Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) project is designed to bring several billion gallons of Missouri River water across the continental divide into the Hudson Bay in Canada and into homes in North Dakota.
In the face of a consolidated lawsuit from Missouri and the province of Manitoba, a federal judge issued an injunction in 2005 pending a full environmental impact study.
Missouri claims that the plan would damage transportation, shipping, agriculture and other industries, while the Manitoba claiming that the project fails to consider the risks of transferring fish and other microscopic organisms into the Hudson Bay Basin.
In October 2012, both parties filed a joint status report with the Washington, D.C., court in which they claimed that construction proposed for the project this year could impact the environmental impact study (EIS), violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that North Dakota can proceed with a treatment plant upgrade but banned any new pipeline construction from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, pending completion of the study.
“North Dakota has been an impatient participant,” Collyer wrote. “It now reminds the court most vociferously that NEPA is merely a procedural statute that only requires certain analyses before a project may proceed. While the court well appreciates - and shares - the state’s impatience, it is wrongly directed towards any but Reclamation which has not yet fulfilled its statutory duty. Properly understood, NEPA requires an environmental analysis of the full consequences of a large federal project - with the inevitable, and necessary, possibility that those consequences will result in a no-project determination. Not having received any semblance of a full EIS on NAWS, the Court has no opinion on the validity of future analyses or whether, with full analyses, NAWS should or should not proceed. The court’s duty, however, is to ensure that a no-go option receives the complete consideration it requires without undue influence from North Dakota’s impatience.
More: Courthouse News Service