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Real Estate & Property Law

Federal judge sides with whooping cranes in water rights case

Posted Mar 13, 2013 3:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal judge has ordered Texas officials to put the needs of an endangered flock of whooping cranes first when determining whether to grant water-use permits to new users.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times provides a link to Monday's 124-page opinion (PDF) by Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack.

She found the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and its chairman and executive director violated the Endangered Species Act through their water management policies, resulting in the death of nearly two dozen of the birds several years ago, during a severe drought.

To prevent additional damage to the flock, which is believed to be the only one still in existence in the wild, the judge issued an injunction prohibiting the commission from granting any new water permits for the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers "until the state of Texas provides reasonable assurances to the court that such permits will not take whooping cranes in violation of the ESA."

The judge also awarded attorney fees and costs to the prevailing plaintiff.

An appeal of the ruling is expected.

Lawyers for environmental groups called it a landmark case that is likely to affect thinking about water policy in multiple jurisdictions.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) also has a story.

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