Bob Lynch is a lawyer who moved to Arizona in 1972 to work on environmental impact statements for Central Arizona Project.

Bob Lynch: The Environmental Perspective

(The story below is built around a recorded interview)

For Bob Lynch, environmental law was an accident.

“I needed a job and I was young and single,” Lynch said. “I didn’t want to go back to Tucson in that condition.”

So Mo Udall made a phone call that landed Lynch in the Justice Department. At the time, the Department handled all of the natural resource and environmental law done in terms of litigation, because it was before the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In fact, Lynch said he got to do the first NEPA case, about a month after the President signed it into law.

“These people are all standing around, they’re all from Harvard and Columbia and NYU and places like that and they think out west is Pittsburgh, and so they’re figuring out where is the Gila River and what is all of this,” Lynch said. “They thought Arizona was next to Texas.”

When Lynch said he knew where the Gila River and Safford were, they quickly handed him the case. He was so well regarded that in 1972, he was tapped to return to Arizona to work on Environmental Impact Statements for Central Arizona Project. It was a massive task.

“We started with the environment as we found it and the purpose of the analysis was to look at what the impacts would be of the project as it was proposed and what the law calls reasonable alternatives. So it was a going-forward analysis,” Lynch said. “It created a lot of science and very helpful science I think. It changed some basic assumptions about archeology in the desert and collected a lot of information about Native American history in the state.”

He said there were a lot of fights throughout the public process. But it was his job to ensure that the laws were satisfied and everyone had an opportunity to express their view and that the final product could withstand litigation as satisfying the NEPA requirements.

Which he did…and got the project built.

Read Bob Lynch's Oral History Transcript
Listen to Bob Lynch's Interview