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Missouri v. Craig

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 20453
Nos. 98-1332, 163 F.3d 482/(8th Cir., 12/16/1998)

The court holds that an action alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted annual operating plans for the Missouri River for the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 navigation seasons in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act is moot. The state and an environmental group contend that the annual operating plans drastically changed the way the Corps manages the Missouri River by directing a two-week adjustment of the navigation season, and that the Corps did not take certain regulatory actions such as preparing an environmental impact statement. The court first holds that changed circumstances have deprived the court of the ability to provide the requested remedy. It is undisputed that the navigation seasons covered by the 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 plans are over. Moreover, the Corps has adopted a 1997-1998 plan that does not mandate a two-week reduction of the navigation season. The court further holds that the case does not fall within the exception to the mootness doctrine for cases capable of repetition, yet evading review. There is no apparent reason why similar future action by the Corps could not be fully litigated before the case became moot. Judicial processes such as preliminary injunctions, emergency stays, and expedited appeals would be available to Missouri if the need arises in the future. Moreover, in this case Missouri chose not to seek expedited review and relief. Therefore, the fact that the court could not reach the merits of Missouri's claims before this case became moot does not change the court's conclusion. In addition, there is not a reasonable expectation that the state will be subjected to the same action again due to the changes reflected in the 1997-1998 plan. While Missouri may have an interest in future Corps actions that adversely affect the length of the navigation season, the court's opinion in such a situation must wait for the day when such actions are challenged.

Counsel for Appellants
William J. Bryan, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
Supreme Court Bldg.
207 W. High St., Jefferson City MO 65101
(573) 751-3321

Counsel for Appellees
Robert H. Oakley
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Bright and Arnold, JJ.