Litigation trepidation. I have it.

With Lawsuit-Palooza Episode II expected in theaters on or before Aug. 21, I can’t help but wonder how impossible it’ll be to keep tabs on all of this.

We’re talking Delta tunnels litigation now, and as former San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller used to say, this will be like playing three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe in the dark with catcher’s mitts on. (I think that’s what he used to say. Sorry if I got that wrong, Larry.)

More succinctly, this is gonna be a mess.

First, the state’s decision to move forward with the tunnels last month started a 30-day clock that expires on Aug. 21, by my count. That’ll be the deadline for tunnels opponents to file lawsuits challenging the project under the state’s California Environmental Quality Act. Everyone and his dog who lives north of Tracy will file.

But wait. It couldn’t be that simple, right? Because the tunnels will convey water that belongs to both the state and federal water projects, the feds are partners in all of this. They’re expected at some point to announce their own decision to proceed. And that means a whole ‘nother set of very similar lawsuits filed in federal court.

What happens if state courts rule one way and federal courts the other? Don’t ask me.

We’re not finished. These are the lawsuits targeting the environmental documents that justify the project. We’ll have an entirely new round of litigation when (and if) the State Water Resources Control Board decides to modify the projects’ water rights, allowing their water to be diverted from a new location. We’ll have a new round of litigation when (and if) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants a permit to modify wetlands. And we’ll have a new round of litigation when (and if) the Delta Stewardship Council finds that the tunnels are consistent with the Delta Plan (which, by the way, is itself still being litigated).

Oh, and there are the lawsuits challenging the federal wildlife agencies’ biological opinions which have already been filed.

And there may well be other points of entry for tunnels opponents that I”m not aware of.

Good luck to anyone trying to sort this out in the coming weeks, months and years.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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