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Port dredging delayed to resolve lawsuit

Posted on September 13, 2022

The Matagorda Ship Channel widening and deepening has been delayed in response to a lawsuit filed by San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper againt the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved a briefing schedule to resolve the case under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The ruling stated both parties were to attempt to resolve any issues with the contents of the administrative record on or before Jan. 20, 2023.

Solicitation of bids was delayed to December 2023.

“The Port of Calhoun stands by the facts, that this project will create an economic impact to the region that is long overdue and needed to help reach its true potential. That it will improve navigational efficiencies and safety of the deep-draft navigation while utilizing dredged material to protect and/or restore significant ecological resources, just as previous projects have proven successful – e.g. Sundown Island, brown pelican,” said Calhoun Port Director Charles Hausmann in a statement.

“We remain optimistic that the delay of this project will satisfy the environmental concerns to outside organizations that have expressed the need for delay through the legal process,” he said.

One of the concerns is dredging near the Alcoa Superfund site, which possibly could stir up the mercury deposited there.

“It’s clear that stirring up deadly toxins is not only bad for the health of our community and bays but it’s also bad for dirty fossil fuel business,” said Diane Wilson, fourth-generation shrimper and executive director of San Antonio Estuarine Bay Waterkeeper. “The Army Corps should recognize the harm this project would cause and permanently cancel the bid to dig up dangerous industrial waste that our fishing community has spent decades trying to recover from.”

“This delay is welcome news for communities that would be harmed by this dredging project and an obvious sign that this project needs to be re-evaluated,” said Erin Gaines, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re committed to bringing the case to a close before any dredging takes place.”

Earthjustice represents San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, Earthworks, Environmental Integrity Project, Turtle Island Restoration Project, and Texas Campaign for the Environment in a lawsuit in May against the Army Corps to force a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the dredging project.

Hausmann added, “It should be noted, these plans met all requirements and were approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, fully authorized and passed by Congress in the WRDA (Water Resources Development Act) in 2020, and signed into law by the President in 2020.”

The ordered schedule includes:

Jan. 23, 2023: Plaintiffs will notify in writing defendants of their position on whether they believe the administrative record is complete.

Feb. 10, 2023: Defendants deadline to respond.

Feb. 20, 2023: Motions from plaintiffs challenging the completeness need to be received and filed.

March 6, 2023: Defendant response to needs to be filed.

March 13, 2023: Plaintiffs need to file reply brief.

If no record motion is filed, the follow schedule is followed:

March 7, 2023: Plaintiffs file for summary judgment.

May 4, 2023: Defendants file combined cross-motion for summary judgment and opposition to plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

June 8, 2023: Plaintiffs file their combined reply in support of their motion and opposition to defendants’ cross motion.

July 13, 2023: Defendants file reply in support of their motion.

July 27, 2023: Plaintiffs file joint appendix.


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