Rio Grande Silvery Minnow vs. Bureau of Reclamation

Litigation over the silvery minnow in the Rio Grande began in 1999 when environmental groups brought action in federal court under the Endangered Species Act against the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lawsuit challenged the validity of a biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the effects of federal water projects on an endangered species of minnow. The environmental groups complained that the biological opinion did not adequately consider all water in the Rio Grande, including that water under contract to water users such as the City of Albuquerque. During the course of litigation, a new biological opinion was issued, which rendered the litigation “moot.”

After numerous hearings, court decisions and appeals to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on various issues, a decision was rendered in April 2010 that has vacated all rulings in the case. The issues raised in the case about federal use of water for endangered species are still unresolved.

For a thorough summary of the litigation, see the article prepared by Susan Kelly and Summer McKean:

The Rio Grande silvery minnow – Eleven years of litigation (pdf)