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Environmental Group Sues Army Corps of Engineers over River Dredging

Paul Bohn, Esq.

On April 7th, the St. Johns Riverkeeper filed a federal challenge to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a project to deepen the harbor. The lawsuit specifically targets the corps' 2015 environmental impact statement that approved the dredging of 13 miles of the St. Johns River to deepen it an extra seven feet.

The Jacksonville Port Authority says the dredging is needed to accommodate larger ships and compete with other ports.

One major environmental issue associated with the proposed dredging is how deepening the river will affect salinity levels. The reason this is such an issue is because the St. Johns River is a balance of saltwater from the ocean and freshwater from inland sources. The Riverkeepers claim that the salinity alteration would have "devastating long-term effects" on the river and several endangered species.

The long-term goal of the lawsuit is to prevent the St. Johns River from ever being dredged. However, the short term goal is to halt the project by attacking the environmental impact statement. The Riverkeeper seeks to affirm that the impact statement issued by the Army Corps is "arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law," as well as declare that the Army Corps has violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

According to Lisa Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, "We can't afford to roll the dice with the future of the St. Johns. Once the damage is done, there is no turning back."

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