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Environmental Defense Fund v. Alexander

Citation: 10 ELR 20302
No. No. 79-2684, 614 F.2d 474/14 ERC 1289/(5th Cir., 03/24/1980) Aff'd

The Fifth Circuit upholds the lower court's dismissal, 9 ELR 20492, a suit to halt completion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway on grounds of laches. Plaintiffs argued that the planned width of the waterway exceeded the size authorized by Congress in 1946. Although the Secretary of the Army revised the project plans in 1967, plaintiffs raised the issue of width for the first time when they amended their lawsuit in 1978, at which time construction had been underway for six years and the project was 18 percent complete. The court notes that Congress and the project's opponents were aware of the change in plans for at least nine years before the lawsuit was filed in 1976. Discerning no excuse for plaintiffs' delay in challenging the project on this basis, and finding that defendants would be prejudiced if the work were enjoined at this stage because of the proportionately large amount of effort and funds already expended, the court finds the factual premises of the decision below supported by the record and affirms the trial court's conclusion that the action was barred by laches.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jon T. Brown
1833 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Suite 1270, Washington DC 20036
(202) 466-6142

James T. B. Tripp
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
475 Park Ave. S., New York NY 10016
(212) 686-0191

Counsel for Defendants
Glenn Whitaker
Civil Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3506

Ralph E. Pogue
Pogue and Pace
P.O. Drawer E, Aberdeen MS 39730
(601) 369-4857

Hunter M. Gholson
Gholson, Hicks & Nichols
Box 1111, Columbus MS 39701
(601) 327-0662

William T. Stephens, Ass't Attorney General
State Capitol, Montgomery AL 36130
(205) 834-5150

David Webb
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 2288, Mobile AL 36628
(205) 534-2491

Before GEWIN, RUBIN and SAM D. JOHNSON, Circuit Judges.