Monday, January 6, 2014

National Audubon Society v. Superior Court case brief

National Audubon Society v. Superior Court case brief summary
658 P.2d 709 (1983)

CASE SYNOPSIS
The petitioners in this case had appealed the decision of the Superior Court of Alpine County in California.  They entered summary judgment against petitioners in their suit to enjoin the city water department, which was the real party in interest, from diverting water from a lake. The court ruled that the public trust doctrine offered no independent basis for challenging the real party in interest's diversions and stated the petitioners had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies.

CASE FACTS
In this case the petitioners sought an injunction which would permanently compel the city water department to reduce its water diversions from a lake. The petitioners in this case argued that the lake was protected by the public trust.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The trial court ruled that the public trust doctrine offered no independent basis for challenging the diversions and that petitioners had failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
Afterwards, the petitioners sought a writ of mandate to review the trial court's decision.

DISCUSSION
  • Diversions from the streams that fed the lake were modified by the public trust doctrine. 
  • While the granted diversions were created with great care, in order to comply with both prior appropriation and riparian law, the court found that public trust rights in the lake had always existed and that they must be accommodated for when consumptive water rights were granted.
  • The court stated that no matter how long rights in water are held, they are subject to review and reallocation. 
  • Environmental factors, as well as appropriation rights, must all be taken into account when conducting a study of the effect of the diversions on the public trust.
CONCLUSION
The court ordered reconsideration by the state of the allocation of water in a stream system. The court found that water rights, no matter how long these rights are held, are subject to review and potential reallocation. The court furthermore held that an objective study of the effect of the diversions upon the public trust had long been overdue.

See also: National Audubon Society v. Superior Court full case on Google Scholar

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