Christian L. Marsh

Christian L. Marsh


Christian L. Marsh


Public agencies and private companies turn to Christian Marsh for advice on regulatory and land use entitlement issues governing real estate developments, ground and surface water supply projects, renewable and non-renewable energy facilities, mining operations and processing plants, and port and waterfront developments.

Regardless of the project’s size or scope, Christian provides effective and practical advice on matters related to endangered species, water rights, water quality, wetlands, the public trust doctrine, and environmental review under NEPA and CEQA. In addition to compliance counseling on these matters, he helps resolve administrative and threatened judicial enforcement matters alleging “take” of endangered species and unlawful discharges or alterations of streams and wetlands under state and federal law. With a particular emphasis on matters pertaining to NEPA and CEQA review, Christian represents clients in state and federal court, and represented the prevailing parties in consecutive appeals before the California Supreme Court.

Before practicing law, Christian served as an assistant to the Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy and as special assistant in the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he advised the Deputy Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Water & Science on endangered species and water policy in the Columbia River basin, the California Bay-Delta, and the U.S.-Mexico border region. As a consequence, Christian has a deep understanding of the regulatory process, and his clients value his insight and skillful approach when advocating before state and federal agencies. He is regularly called upon to represent clients on administrative matters before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, Bureau of Reclamation, California State Water Resources and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, Department of Fish & Wildlife, State Lands Commission, Coastal Commission, Bay Conservation & Development Commission, and local governments.


Representative Appeals

  • Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach, 52 Cal.4th 155 (2011).  Represented appellant City of Manhattan Beach and amici curiae California League of Cities (League) and California State Association of Counties (CSAC) in appeal involving CEQA’s fair argument standard.  Prevailed on appeal to California Supreme Court.
  • Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning v. City of Stockton, 48 Cal.4th 481 (2010).  Represented landowner in defense of claim that approval of a shopping center violated CEQA, the California Constitution, and California planning and zoning laws.  Prevailed on appeal to California Supreme Court.
  • San Francisco Baykeeper, Inc. v. California State Lands Commission, 29 Cal.App.5th 562 (2018). Represented leaseholder in action under public trust doctrine challenging sand mining on tide and submerged lands within San Francisco Bay.  Court upheld finding by State Lands Commission that mining leases will not impair trust uses or values.
  • Delaware Tetra Technologies, Inc. v. County of San Bernardino, 247 Cal.App.4th 352 (2016).  Lead counsel for county in defense of two related cases challenging a pre-project MOU regarding the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project.  Actions asserted claims under CEQA, the County’s Desert Groundwater Management Ordinance (“DGMO”), and principles of California water law.  Prevailed at trial and on appeal.
  • Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino, 247 Cal.App.4th 326 (2016).  Lead counsel for county in two related cases in defense of CEQA action challenging an EIR for the Cadiz Project.  Prevailed at trial and on appeal.
  • San Francisco Baykeeper, Inc. v. California State Lands Commission, 242 Cal.App.4th 202 (2015).  Representing leaseholders in action challenging EIR for sand mining operations in San Francisco and Suisun Bays under CEQA and common law public trust doctrine.  Prevailed at trial and appeal on all CEQA claims.
  • Masonite Corporation v. County of Mendocino, 215 Cal.App.4th 230 (2013).  Represented landowner in action challenging an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under CEQA and California planning and zoning laws.  Prevailed on appeal.
  • Bertani v. City of Vacaville, 2005 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 5552 (2005). Defense against CEQA and zoning code challenges to commercial shopping center.  Prevailed at trial and on appeal.
  • Santa Teresa Citizens Action Group v. City of San Jose, 114 Cal.App.4th 689 (2003).  Defense against suit challenging construction of a pipeline for delivery of reclaimed water to a new energy facility brought by a private water company under CEQA, California planning laws, and the common law public trust doctrine. Prevailed at trial and on appeal.

Representative Trial Court Cases

  • Environmental Council of Sacramento v. City of Elk Grove. Successfully defended challenge to addendum to 1,200-acre Southeast Policy Area Strategic Plan EIR adopted to address alternative habitat mitigation approved under city’s Swainson’s hawk mitigation ordinance.
  • Atherton Cove Property Owners Association v. San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency.  Helped defend challenge to multi-million dollar flood control facility on the San Joaquin River brought under CEQA and grants of sovereign lands under the public trust doctrine.  Prevailed at trial.
  • Communities for a Better Environment v. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.  Representing real party in interest in defense of action under CEQA and the Air District’s air quality rules to enjoin operation of crude oil terminal.  Prevailed at trial.
  • Kern Water Bank Authority v. City of Bakersfield.  Lead counsel for groundwater bank in challenge to an EIR for the city’s Kern River Flow and Municipal Water Program, a program designed to appropriate additional surface waters in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board.  Prevailed at trial.
  • Foothill Conservancy v. East Bay Municipal Utility District.  Defense against lawsuit brought under CEQA to set aside programmatic EIR for long-term water supply management program.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council v. Locke.  Served as local counsel to Makah Indian Tribe, amicus curiae in defense of NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Northwest groundfish management plans under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), NEPA, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management Act.

Representative Energy and Mining Projects

  • San Francisco Bay Sand Mining, San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa Counties.  Counseled clients on permits and entitlements for mining construction-grade sand from San Francisco and Suisun Bays.  Advised on completion of EIR and helped secure approvals from wildlife and regulatory agencies, including California Department of Fish & Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Bay Conservation & Development Commission.
  • Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, Inyo County.  Advised water and power agency on an EIR for 200-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm.
  • Santa Maria Oil Drilling & Production Plan, Santa Barbara County.  Represented energy company on EIR for expansion and development of oil wellfield and construction of pipeline for importation of recycled water for oil production activities.  The EIR addressed major issues including climate change and air quality, endangered species, public safety and emergency response, and water quality.
  • Utility-Scale Solar Power Plants, California and Nevada.  Advised developer on regulatory strategies under NEPA and CEQA for development of thermal-solar power plants in California and Nevada with planned output of 750 megawatts.
  • El Dorado/Ivanpah Transmission Project, San Bernardino County.  Represented two utility-scale solar developers in supporting CEQA compliance for new substation and transmission line upgrades approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Representative Real Estate Development Projects

  • Santa Clara Square, City of Santa Clara.  Advised city on CEQA compliance for 334-acre planned community development project.  This infill, mixed-use residential development comprises 1,800 apartment units, 40,000 square feet of retail, 4,500 square feet of office, and 38,000 square feet of amenities.
  • Arambel Business Park/KDN Retail Center, City of Patterson.  Represented landowner and developer on water supply assessment and CEQA compliance for 950-acre commercial, business, and light industrial development.
  • Fairfield Station Specific Plan, City of Fairfield.  Represent landowner on mixed-use project.  Successfully negotiated a plan for development and preservation of vernal pool habitat for Contra Costa goldfields and California tiger salamander.
  • Sanctuary Master Development Plan, City of Stockton.  Represented private development company on permits and entitlements for a 2,000-acre mixed-use project.  Advised the client on all aspects of CEQA and ESA compliance and helped evaluate and prepare the EIR and Water Supply Assessment.
  • Marina Center Mixed Use Project, City of Eureka.  Represented landowner and developer on 43-acre brownfield mixed-use redevelopment project on permitting and entitlement issues, including certification of the project’s EIR.  The EIR addressed major issues including climate change, coastal wetlands, site remediation, cultural resources, traffic, and wastewater.
  • East Cypress Corridor Specific Plan, City of Oakley.  Represented landowner and homebuilders on a 1,255-acre master-planned community, and lead efforts to conduct NEPA and CEQA review and obtain all federal, state, and local permits associated with surface waters and wetlands, water quality, water supply, and threatened and endangered species.

Representative Water Rights, Water Supply and Infrastructure Projects

  • Vista Grande Drainage Basin Improvement Project, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.  Representing local agency on joint EIR/EIS being prepared under CEQA and NEPA for a multi-million dollar stormwater management project, including replacement of existing infrastructure, installation of constructed wetlands, and management of water levels within drainage basin.  Advising client on regulatory and permitting requirements for special use permits and federal and state approvals associated with surface waters and wetlands, endangered species and habitats, coastal development, and sovereign lands.
  • Kern Water Bank Conservation & Storage Project, Kern County.  Representing regional water bank on the Kern River in the preparation of an EIR to support water rights proceeding before the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Concord Naval Weapons Station, Contra Costa County.  Advising park district on land-use aspects of transfer and reuse of 2,600 acres of the former naval base, including remediation and land use controls, NEPA and CEQA compliance, and permitting and consultations under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and cultural resources laws.
  • Camanche Permit Extension, Amador and Calaveras Counties.  Advised water and utility district on CEQA compliance for extension of permit to divert and store up to 125 million gallons per day (140,000 acre-feet per year) of surface water for municipal purposes.
  • Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project, County of San Bernardino.  Advised county on evaluation and approval of 50-year groundwater management plan for pumping project in Mojave Desert proposed to recover 50,000 acre-feet of native groundwater annually.
  • Water Diversion Project, City of Livermore.  Represented local agency on negotiations with state and federal wildlife and water quality agencies on renewal of wetland permit, water quality certification, and streambed alteration agreement for in-stream placement of diversion works and diversion of water for a municipal golf course.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • San Francisco Bay Planning Coalition, Board Member
  • California Building Industry Association
  • California Association of Sanitation Agencies
  • Power Association of Northern California
  • Bar Association of San Francisco, Environmental Law Section; Executive Committee Member, 2010-2015
  • California Bar Association, Section on Environmental Law, 2000-present
  • California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Executive Committee Member, 2016-present
  • American Bar Association, Section on Environment, Energy & Resources, 2000-present
  • American Bar Association, Endangered Species Committee, Former Chair and Vice-Chair, 2005-2010

Honors And Rankings

  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Energy & Natural Resources, Land Use/Zoning, 2016-2019
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Super Lawyer, Energy & Resources, 2019
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Rising Star, Environmental Litigation, 2009-2010
  • Best Lawyers in America©, Natural Resources Law, 2020

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