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Federal court overturns ruling, Texas can allow use of water in whooping crane habitat

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HOUSTON — A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas is not responsible for the deaths of nearly two dozen endangered whooping cranes because it could not have known its water management practices would kill the birds.

The decision Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a ruling by a U.S. district judge that barred the state from granting certain water permits.

The three-judge panel ruled the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality could not have known that issuing permits to draw water during a drought would cause the San Antonio and Aransas bays to become saltier.

The actions harmed the supply of blue crabs and wolfberries, a key food for the cranes that died in 2008-2009.

A coalition of local governments and environmental advocates sued the state in 2010.

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