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Texas Comm. on Natural Resources v. Van Winkle

Citation: 32 ELR 20639
No. No. CIV.A. 4:00CV384-Y, 197 F. Supp. 2d 586/(N.D. Tex., 04/10/2002)

A district court granted summary judgment to an environmental group on their claim that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider the cumulative impacts of construction of the Dallas Floodway Extension (DFE) and related projects, but granted summary judgment to the Corps on the group's remaining NEPA claims. In a 1999 environmental impact statement (EIS) for the DFE, the Corps failed to discuss the cumulative impacts resulting from a series of bridge, levee, and highway projects, including the DFE, that are part of a river development project. The Corps claimed that they did not address the other projects because they were not actual proposals and that they lacked sufficient detail to discuss the cumulative impacts of the DFE and these projects. However, regardless of whether any of the projects constitute actual proposals, there is a reasonable basis to believe that some or all of the projects will be implemented. The EIS does make some mention of the projects, but the statements are conclusory and fail to meet NEPA's requirements that an agency take a hard look at a project's environmental consequences, including cumulative impacts. The reasonably foreseeable construction of more levees, bridges, and highways in the same geographic area as the DFE will create environmental cumulative impacts that the Corps should have considered in its EIS. Consequently, the matter is remanded to the Corps for further consideration of cumulative impacts, and until the Corps complies with NEPA, further construction of the DFE is enjoined. The Corps, however, did not improperly manipulate computer models in order to increase flood elevation estimates and did not arbitrarily or capriciously omit from the EIS a discussion of an estimated seven-foot increase to projected flood models. In addition, the Corps adequately discussed the economic impacts of flooding in downtown Dallas and was not required to consider the raising of the existing floodway. Further, other related river construction projects were not sufficiently connected as to require analysis in the 1999 EIS, and the group provided insufficient arguments to convince the court that the Corps violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to follow a 1988 record of decision.