Corps wins appeal over river levee changes

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 27, 2000

The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in lawsuits over the main line Mississippi River levee projects.

Judge Reynaldo G. Garza Monday confirmed the ruling of a lower court in September that an environmental impact statement by the Corps on the project is in compliance with national regulations, allowing the Corps to go forward with levee improvements.

The appeal stems from a 1998 lawsuit filed by the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund Inc., against the Corps challenging the adequacy of the supplemental impact statement for the Mississippi Levee Enlargement and Berm Construction Project.

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The project includes raising and broadening levees and the construction of new levees and berms in seven states. The impact statement is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to inform the public of environmental impacts.

The lawsuit, on behalf of seven environmental groups, complained of a lack of detail given in the impact statement about the future of the project and of the use of borrowed material from the river side of levees.

“We affirm the district court’s finding that the SEIS’s cumulative impacts, mitigation and selected alternatives analysis satisfied the requirements,” Garza said in his ruling.

In the construction of levees, the Corps uses material dredged from the river instead of the land side of the levee where farms and cities are often located.

The enlargement and berm project consists of 1,610 miles of levees and seepage control along the river. About $20 million will be spent for ongoing construction contracts in the Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts. An additional $11 million has been allocated in the fiscal year 2001 for new contracts.