July 27, 2016
Contacts: Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper (904) 509-3260
Dredging Challenge Will Move to Federal Court
State Permitting Process Incapable of Protecting the St. Johns River
JACKSONVILLE, FL— On Tuesday, July 26, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER, a nonprofit advocacy organization for the St. Johns River, filed a notice withdrawing its legal challenge of the Army Corps of Engineers’ state Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) for the proposed dredging of the St. Johns River due the lack of enforceability.
On April 1, 2016, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER filed a Petition for Formal Administrative Hearing to challenge the permit for failing to protect the St. Johns River and its tributaries.
After a series of motions and the determination that the state is incapable of holding the Corps accountable for the conditions of the permit, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER is targeting its efforts on a legal challenge at the federal level.
“The responses from the Corps and the judge have made it abundantly clear that the state permit would not be enforceable, since the Corps would be immune from state laws,” stated Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “As a result, we will be moving our challenge to federal court to ensure that we have a fighting chance of protecting our river from the damage that will occur from the deep dredge.”
On June 27, 2016, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER filed a Motion for Order Determining the Corps of Engineers is Not Qualified to Obtain an ERP citing federal law that states:
“District engineers should not seek state permits or licenses unless authorized to do so by a clear, explicit, and unambiguous Congressional waiver of Federal sovereign immunity, giving the state authority to impose that requirement on Federal activities.”
The Corps responded that it is not seeking a state permit under state law but is instead “merely using an established state process to meet federal requirements….” The Army Corps of Engineers also refused to waive its “federal supremacy” and sovereign immunity, meaning the Corps could not be held accountable for the conditions of the permit and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agency could not enforce any potential permit violations.
“Although the Corps has refused to take responsibility for the devastating impacts that occurred to the coral reefs in Miami from dredging, we are determined to hold them accountable for their actions in Jacksonville,” explains Rinaman. “As a result we will continue our legal fight to ensure that the St. Johns is adequately protected and the local community is not left holding the bag for damages that occur to our river from the dredging.”
Click here to read the formal notice dismissing the administrative challenge of the state permit.
Learn more about our position on the dredging issue: