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Dredging Project Faces Legal Challenge

Dredging Project Faces Legal Challenge

The following is from a press release sent by St. Johns Riverkeeper on August 11, 2015:

JACKSONVILLE, FL – On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, St. Johns Riverkeeper filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) regarding the proposed St. Johns River harbor deepening project.

In April 2014, the ACOE issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the JAXPORT proposal to dredge 13 miles of the St. Johns River from a depth of 40-feet to 47-feet, finding the plan to be “economically justified” and “environmentally acceptable.”

St. Johns Riverkeeper intends to challenge the ACOE, citing 1) a failure to provide appropriate in-kind mitigation for the environmental damage that will result from the dredging, 2) insufficient assessment of the environmental impacts, 3) violations of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, and 4) a flawed economic assessment.

“We can’t afford to roll the dice with the future of our river. Once the damage is done, there is no turning back. We simply cannot afford to get this decision wrong,” states St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.

St. Johns Riverkeeper concerns:

The mitigation plan is woefully inadequate, failing to offset the damage that will be incurred from dredging.

  • Dredging will cause salt water to move farther upstream, destroying wetlands, submerged grasses, and trees that provide critical habitat for fisheries and pollution filters for the river.
  • Mitigation is limited with no net benefit to the St. Johns River.
  • Monitoring comprises the vast majority of the mitigation expenditures. Monitoring is a standard permit condition and not a substitute for true compensatory mitigation.

The USACE analysis is flawed and incomplete, significantly underestimating the potential threats to the health of the St. Johns River.

  • USACE used two different salinity models for the main stem and tributary analyses. Use of different models for the salinity intrusion model makes evaluation unreliable.
  • USACE’s river channel sedimentation model does not provide necessary information to establish environmental effects for sedimentation.

Impacts from the blasting of bedrock and sedimentation from dredging will potentially cause adverse impacts to several endangered species, including manatees, shortnose sturgeon, North Atlantic right whales, and sea turtles.

The federal and regional economic interests have not been demonstrated or verified, as required by Federal Law.

  • A multi-port analysis assessing competition among regional ports has not been conducted.
  • The economic analysis did not follow ACOE guidelines.
  • Economic methods and assumptions are not adequately documented.

Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper: “Regrettably, the Army Corps of Engineers has underestimated the environmental impacts, overstated the economic benefits, and done nothing to offset the damage that will occur, leaving us with no choice but to challenge this project.”

For more information abou this issue, click here.   

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