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Friends of the Earth v. Corps of Eng'rs

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20075
Nos. Nos. CIV.A. 98-0801 et al., 109 F. Supp. 2d 30/51 ERC 1224/(D.D.C., 08/10/2000)

The court holds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it failed to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to the permitting of three casinos on the Mississippi coast. Mississippi law requires casinos to be located on floating vessels. Because all three casinos at issue here would have an impact on navigable waters, they were required to apply to the Corps for a Clean Water Act §404 permit. After completing environmental assessments (EAs) for the casinos, the Corps determined that the casinos would have no significant impact and, thus, issued the necessary permits. The court first holds that the Corps failed to take a hard look at the direct impacts that the casinos would have on wetlands, nonvegetated waterbottoms, and the intake of larvae and eggs of aquatic species into casino sump pumps. The court next holds that the Corps failed to analyze the indirect impacts of the upland development adjacent to the casino barges and the growth-inducing effects of the casinos. While the Corps details a number of the possible upland impacts for each of the projects in the EAs, it provides no analysis of their significance. On the record before it, the court cannot conclude that the Corps took a hard look at the impacts or made a convincing case for its finding. Similarly, because the economic development of the areas is an announced goal and anticipated consequence of the casino projects, the Corps cannot claim that the prospect of secondary development is highly speculative. The court further holds that the Corps failed to consider in the EAs the cumulative impacts of the numerous permitted casinos along the Mississippi coast. The court finally holds that because of the controversy surrounding the development of the casinos and the significant cumulative impacts of the multiple casino projects along the coast, the Corps must prepare an EIS.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Bruce J. Terris
Terris, Pravlik & Millian
1121 12th St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 682-2100

Counsel for Defendant
John T. Stahr
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000