A federal court in West Virginia has ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several state agencies may construct a dam in the Lost River watershed, rejecting a summary judgment motion filed by residents who would lose property if the dam were built. Webster v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, No. 09-138 (N.D. W. Va. 6/13/11). Plaintiffs alleged that the plan to build the dam and an impoundment violated NEPA because the government had failed to fully investigate the dam’s environmental impacts. They also charged that defendants failed to fully consider alternatives to the dam or consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about ways to mitigate the project’s impact on wetlands.
Denying plaintiffs’ motion, the court held that while defendants may not have considered every conceivable effect the dam might have, NEPA does not require defendant to do so. According to the court, defendant’s environmental impact statement contains no clear errors in judgment even though it may not be impeccable.