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Hoosier Environmental Council v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20166
Nos. 12-3187, (7th Cir., 07/16/2013)

The Seventh Circuit upheld a dredge and fill permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a highway project that crosses wetlands in Indiana. The Corps adequately considered practicable alternatives when it issued the permit. Although the Corps has an independent responsibility to enforce the CWA and cannot "rubberstamp" another agency's assurances concerning practicability and environmental harm, it isn't required to reinvent the wheel. If another agency has conducted a responsible analysis, the Corps can rely on it in making its own decision. Here, the Federal Highway Administration conducted a detailed alternatives analysis and determined that the "direct route" was the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative. In its alternatives analysis, therefore, it was reasonable for the Corps to consider only alternative alignments within the direct route on the one hand, and not building the highway on the other. In addition, the Corps conducted an adequate public interest review. The Corps analyzed a "remarkable" number of public interest factors, and the environmental group challenging the permit simply failed to demonstrate that the Corps' conclusion was unreasonable.