In 1878, John Wesley Powell, the first director of the United States Geological Survey, published his Report on the Lands in the Arid Regions of the United States. In his Arid Lands Report, Powell foresaw the essential role that water would play in the development of the American west and the challenges faced in managing watersheds that included not only mainstem rivers but networks of tributaries that contributed water to mainstem rivers.
In Environmental Law Foundation, et al. v. State Water Resources Control Board, et al., Case No. 34-2010-80000583, three plaintiff organizations (collectively, ELF) claim that California's Public Trust Doctrine requires the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) and Siskiyou County (County) to regulate groundwater that is hydraulically connected to the navigable Scott River (Scott Groundwater). Although ELF's legal theory is sound, ELF chose the wrong case to test it. The Scott Groundwater already is subject to public-trust protections that are set forth in an existing Siskiyou County Superior Court Decree. Before it asks another Court to issue a new order based on a novel public-trust theory, ELF should seek better enforcement of the existing Decree.
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