Corps Lawsuit May 2014
Environmental Groups Sue Army Corps of Engineers
Last Thursday, May 22nd, MCE, and 5 other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Upper Mississippi River System. The suit challenges the Corps’ reliance on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement for its operation and maintenance (O & M) activities on the River designed to maintain the system’s 9-foot navigation channel.
This lawsuit does not seek to halt navigation on the Upper Mississippi River Navigation System. Rather, it seeks to compel the Corps to re-examine the methods it is using to maintain the navigation system so that it can develop and implement less environmentally destructive operation and maintenance (O&M) actions. Alternative O&M actions that would cause less damage to the environment to exist, including: use of alternative water level management regimes that mimic the system’s natural hydrologic regime; and reconnecting portions of the river channel to its floodplain and backwaters.
As part of this suit, we are seeking to enjoin construction of new river training structures until the Corps completes the required environmental review. While these structures promote self-scouring of the navigation channel, extensive peer-reviewed science shows that they have increased flood heights in the middle Mississippi River by 10 to 15 feet, creating very real threats to public safety. Construction of new river training structures will add to the already significant risk to river communities and navigation can readily continue without the construction of new structures. Removing or modifying targeted river training structures could significantly improve public safety by reducing flood heights during major floods.
The National Wildlife Federation and many partner groups have worked for years to try to convince the Corps to voluntarily carry out the requested environmental review, to adopt a moratorium on the construction of new river training structures pending completion of the review, and to initiate a National Academy of Sciences study on the effect of river training structures. We are filing now because the Corps is poised to construct major new complexes of river training structures in areas that are particularly vulnerable to flooding.
Levee District Commissioners from 5 different Illinois Levee Districts, the Shawnee School District (Illinois), the Shawnee Valley Water District (Illinois), and the Wolf Lake Sanitary Corporation (Illinois) have also called on the Corps to adopt a moratorium on the construction of new river training structures and to initiate a National Academy of Sciences study on the effect of river training structures.