Okinawa Dugong v. Gates

543 F. Supp. 2d 1082 (2008)

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Okinawa Dugong v. Gates

United States District Court for the Northern District of California
543 F. Supp. 2d 1082 (2008)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

The Okinawa dugong (plaintiff), a critically endangered marine mammal, was protected under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, which was Japan’s equivalent to the United States’ National Register of Historic Places (National Register). The Department of Defense (DOD) (defendant) approved a plan to construct the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF), a military air station, in Henoko Bay, Okinawa. Henoko Bay was a habitat and feeding ground for dugongs, and the proposed FRF construction would destroy the sea-grass beds the dugongs fed on and would potentially expose the dugongs to toxins, boat strikes, and marine noise pollution. The DOD did not conduct studies to determine whether Henoko Bay was a critical dugong habitat before approving the FRF construction plan. Acting on behalf of the dugong, several environmental associations, along with three individual Japanese citizens (collectively, the dugong), sued the DOD for violating the National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) and moved for summary judgment, arguing that the DOD had failed to take into account the impact of the approved FRF construction on the dugong. The DOD countered, arguing that the impact on the dugong would be carefully evaluated and that mitigation plans would be created during the Japanese government’s upcoming three-year environmental-impact review process.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Patel, J.)

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