Court Rules Bay Waters Remain Protected Under Clean Water Act

Court Rules Bay Waters Remain Protected Under Clean Water Act

Baykeeper Defends Clean Water Act Against Attack by South Bay Cities

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order late yesterday denying an effort by the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale to dodge a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act. San Francisco Baykeeper sued the two cities in 2020 for discharging high volumes of sewage pollution into Stevens Creek, Calabazas Creek, Sunnyvale East Channel, and Guadalupe Slough, all of which flow into San Francisco Bay.

In 2022, the court found the cities had violated the Clean Water Act, but lawyers for the cities recently argued that the law no longer applies to the South Bay’s creeks and streams because of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Sackett v EPA.

The court rejected the cities’ claims, finding that these creeks remained “waters of the United States,” and are still protected by the Clean Water Act. As a result, Baykeeper’s legal action to hold the cities accountable for polluting the Bay will proceed. The trial is scheduled for August 2024.

Baykeeper managing attorney Eric Buescher commented:

“Sackett was a misguided and harmful decision. Fortunately, the court found that its limitations on the Clean Water Act’s reach have no relevance to the waterways in this case. The court rejected the argument put forward by Sunnyvale and Mountain View that Bay Area streams and creeks were no longer protected under the Clean Water Act.

“The Bay deserves protection, and our creeks and streams that flow into the Bay deserve protection as well. They’re most certainly “waters of the United States” and remain protected under the historic Clean Water Act.

“Baykeeper defended the Clean Water Act against attempts to undermine it, and the court got it right. Decisions like this will help strengthen the law and allow it to continue to play an important role in protecting our local creeks, sloughs, rivers, and the Bay itself.”