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Louisiana Envtl. Soc'y v. Dole

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20693
Nos. Nos. 81-3784, 82-3042, 707 F.2d 116/19 ERC 1874/(5th Cir., 05/26/1983) Judgment for plaintiffs rev'd

The Fifth Circuit, reversing in part the district court, rules that the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA's) determination under §4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act that the selected route for the Interstate 220 bridge across Cross Lake in Louisiana is the route that least harms the recreational area is neither arbitrary and capricious nor an abuse of discretion. The court first rules that to overturn the determination, plaintiffs must prove that the determination was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion based on the administrative record. The trial court remanded the case because although the FHwA declared that the choice was based on comparisons of visual impact, the record and evidence at trial proved that restriction of access to the lake had also entered into the determination, though the record did not support a finding that limited access adversely affected recreation. The court of appeals holds that the administrative record as a whole supports the determination that the chosen route would cause the least harm. The court refuses to overturn the determination for falsely declaring that it was based on visual impact, a technical deficiency, so long as the agency considered the necessary factors and the court can discern how the agency reached its conclusion. Further, the court rules that plaintiffs failed to prove that the agency's choice of impact analysis was an abuse of the agency's broad discretion in such matters. Finally, the court rules that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to permit plaintiffs to amend a third supplemented and amending petition.

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellees
Billy R. Pesnell
Hargrove, Guyton, Ramey & Barlow
7th Floor, First Fed. Plaza, P.O. Box B, Shreveport LA 71161-0010
(318) 227-1113

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
Sharon F. Lyles, General Counsel
Department of Transportation & Development
P.O. Box 44245, Capitol Sta., Baton Rouge LA 70804
(318) 342-7887

Thomas H. Pacheco
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2767

Before RUBIN and TATE, Circuit Judges, and Davis*, District Judge.