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Louisiana Envtl. Soc'y v. Coleman

Citation: 6 ELR 20710
No. No. 76-1686, 537 F.2d 79/9 ERC 1245/(5th Cir., 07/30/1976) Vacating denial of injunctive relief

The court vacates a lower court's denial of injunctive relief against construction of a highway bridge over Cross Lake, a significant recreation area near Shreveport, Louisiana. The case is remanded to the district court with directions to enter a preliminary injunction against construction until the Secretary of Transportation has complied with § 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. The district court may also require the Secretary either to hold an additional public hearing on the project or to present facts sufficient to justify the denial of new hearings. Under § 4(f), a significant recreational area cannot be used for a federally funded highway project if (1) any feasible and prudent alternative exists, and even then, only if (2) the project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the recreational area. The Secretary could reasonably have determined that the two alternatives which do not bridge Cross Lake, and thus do not use it, are imprudent, but he failed to balance the harm to the recreation area of the various alternate routes bridging different portions of the lake as a means of selecting the route that will minimize harm to the recreation area. Routes that do minimize such harm may still be rejected by the Secretary if he finds them to be imprudent or infeasible through a separate reasoning process. The court finds the Secretary's categorization of four alternate routes which are very similar to the adopted route as imprudent to be perilously close to the line of reasonableness, however, and suggests that he could not reasonably give § 4(f) approval to the adopted route without enunciating other unusual factors that demonstrate the imprudence of adopting the alternate routes. The district court must determine on remand whether new public hearings are required under 28 U.S.C. § 128 and PPM 20-8, a determination which will depend on the date upon which the project received design approval and on whether there have been subsequent changes in project location and design.

Counsel are listed at 6 ELR 20093.

Clark, J. for himself, Gee & Tjoflat, JJ.