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Save Our Wetlands v. Witherspoon

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20972
Nos. No. 86-2554, 638 F. Supp. 1158/24 ERC 1961/(E.D. La., 07/10/1986)

The court holds that deficient administrative records compiled by the Corps of Engineers for the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) were adequately supplemented by evidence submitted at trial, and the Corps reasonably decided not to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to issuing dredging permits under §404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The court initially notes that the Fifth Circuit abides by the reasonableness standard in reviewing an agency's decision not to prepare an EIS, although the plaintiff has the initial burden of alleging facts that, if true, would show that the project in question significantly affects the environment. The court holds that the EAs prepared in connection with applications for three FWPCA §404 permits inadequately analyze the potential cumulative environmental effects of dredging for access to oil and gas production operations and insufficiently document the decision that no other reasonable alternatives were available. The court holds, however, that evidence submitted at trial considered together with the administrative record adequately support the Corps' conclusions. The court holds that the Corps' decision not to prepare an EIS was reasonable. The finding of no significant impact in the EA was amply supported by testimony from the Corps' experts that there would be localized impacts as a result of issuing the permits, but that those impacts would be beneficial in the long term, and that there would be no cumulative impacts.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Luke Fontana, Lyman L. Jones Jr.
500 Dufossat St., New Orleans LA 70115
(504) 897-6600

Counsel for Defendant
Mark Gallinghouse, Elizabeth Griffin
U.S. Attorneys Office
Hale Boggs Federal Bldg., 500 Camp St., New Orleans LA 70130
(504) 589-2921

Van M. Davidson Jr., William W. Ruckers Jr.
Camp, Carmouche, Barsh, Gray, Hoffman & Gill
P.O. Drawer 2001, Lake Charles LA 70602
(318) 433-0355