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In re Operation of the Mo. River Sys. Litig.

ELR Citation: 33 ELR 20252
Nos. No. 03-MD-1555(PAM), (D. Minn., 08/04/2003)

The court refuses to reinstate a contempt order against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) penalizing the agency $500,000 a day if it did not comply with a separate order requiring the Corps to lower water flow levels in the Missouri River. The judicial panel on multidistrict litigation transferred to the district court five federal cases involving the Corps' management of the Missouri River. In one of those cases, a Nebraska district court issued an injunction requiring the Corps to maintain higher water flows in the river. In another case, a D.C. district court issued an injunction requiring water flows to be lowered and a contempt order penalizing the Corps if it did not lower the river by July 25, 2003. On July 24, the district court stayed all proceedings in the case for 14 days. On July 25, the Eighth Circuit extended its stay of the Nebraska court's injunction until August 20. Environmental groups then petitioned to lift the stay on the D.C. district court's contempt order so that the Corps could be penalized for failing to lower the river. The district court agreed that the stay of the Nebraska injunction removed all conflict between districts and left the D.C. injunction as the only injunction in effect. Nevertheless, it refused to penalize the Corps. The contempt order is a procedural order for which the district court had yet to receive any files or information from the D.C. district court. Absent such information, the contempt order cannot be enforced.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Richard B. Bates
Bates Law Office
St. Paul MN 55101
(651) 690-9671

Counsel for Defendant
Corey M. Conover, Ass't City Attorney
City Attorney's Office
333 S. 7th St., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 673-2010