Federal Judge Rules Dredging of St. Johns River can Proceed

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Posted January 23, 2018

A federal judge has rejected the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s lawsuit that sought an injunction to stop dredging of the St. Johns River, clearing the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start this month on the first phase of the deepening project.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard’s ruling, issued Friday, turned down the Riverkeeper’s challenge on two grounds.

The Riverkeeper contended that JaxPort and the Corps have decided to shorten the 13-mile dredging project authorized by Congress to 11 miles, which would save money but fall short of reaching the TraPac terminal on the west side of the Dames Point bridge. The TraPac terminal is a major hub in Jacksonville for serving the ocean-crossing ships that would benefit from a deeper channel, so the Riverkeeper contended the Corps must go back and reasess whether deepening the river will generate enough economic benefits to justify the environmental harm to the river.

Howard found that while JaxPort has shown interest in stopping the deepening at 11 miles where the river reaches the Blount Island Terminal east of the bridge, JaxPort has not asked the Corps to change the length of the project.

The Riverkeeper also contended that in wake of Hurricane Irma’s flooding, the Corps must revisit its analysis of the impact of a deeper river on flooding caused by storm surge. Howard’s ruling said that while the Riverkeeper “may be able to establish at a later stage in the proceedings that the Corps’ models are flawed,” the evidence submitted as part of the request for an injunction did not show the Corps’ analysis was “arbitrary and capricious.”

This a developing story.

Source: jacksonville.com