Mississippi River Flood Control Project May Proceed as EIS Meets Technical Requirements
Description Appeals court upheld the right of the Army Corps to proceed with a massive flood control project on the Mississippi River that was funded by Congress. The Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Corps meets the standards of quality demanded by administrative procedure, so the Corps may proceed.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Environmental Impact Statements; Flood Control
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A coalition of environmental groups filed suit in 1996 to prevent the Army Corps from proceeding with a flood control project that involves 1,610 miles of levees and other structures along the Mississippi River. The project is estimated to take 33 years to complete and is part of on-going efforts since the 1920s. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project was finished in 1976. The groups argued that the EIS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the Corps had not prepared a supplemental EIS (SEIS) in light of new information and circumstances that had arisen in the past 20 years, and that the Corps made changes in the project since its original EIS. The Corps then agreed to do a SEIS, which was finished in 1998 after public comment. The groups now argue that the revised plan indicates that important wetlands will be destroyed and that the SEIS is misleading and inaccurate in its discussion of environmental impact. The district court held that the Corps had followed proper procedure. The groups appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the Corps action will be set aside if it is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." In the case of an EIS, the courts look to see if the Corps acted in good faith to review the environmental consequences of the alternatives, whether it is sufficiently detailed to allow outsiders to understand the matter, and if it explains the alternatives and the reasons for a choice. The Corps fulfilled its obligations in the SEIS it prepared after objections were raised to the original EIS. The courts do not substitute their judgment for that of an agency if it has followed proper procedure.
Citation Mississippi River Basin Alliance v. Westphal, 230 F.3d 170 (5th Cir., 2000)

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