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Judge rules federal whooping crane case will continue

By BY JJ VELASQUEZ
July 28, 2010 at 2:28 a.m.


DEFENDANTSDefendants in the suit include:

Bryan Shaw, chairman of the TCEQ

Buddy Garcia and Carlos Rubinstein, commissioners of the TCEQ

Mark Vickery, executive director of the TCEQ;

Al Segovia, South Texas watermaster

CORPUS CHRISTI - A lawsuit against state officials over whooping crane deaths will move forward, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

"The case is going to move forward to the next phase and we're very pleased," said Jim Blackburn, who represents the group who filed suit in March against four Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials.

The Aransas Project claims the state agency's policy on water permitting caused the deadliest winter for the seasonal birds, which winter at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Twenty-three cranes died from 2008 to 2009.

The group, formed last year as a watchdog of freshwater flows in the Guadalupe River Basin, claims the agency's mismanagement of the water system illegally harmed the birds.

The State of Texas and two interveners, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the Texas Chemical Council made independent arguments that the case should be dismissed.

Attorneys representing the GBRA argued the federal court should defer the case to the state under the Burford abstention, which says that state processes should handle state issues.

The Aransas Project argued there was no state process to defer to.

The state claimed the defendants did not cause the so-called taking, harming or killing of endangered species, whooping cranes. Taking an endangered species is outlawed by the Endangered Species Act.

Judge Janis Jack ruled individually on each motion after they were presented.

The case now moves to pretrial examinations leading up to the March 2 trial.

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