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November 3, 09

NEWS / Attorney General Announces Suit Seeking to Halt Dredging, Deepening of Delaware River Shipping Chann

TRENTON -- Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today that the state has followed through on Governor Corzine’s direction to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking to block the planned dredging and deepening of the Delaware River shipping channel on grounds the project violates environmental laws.

Filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, the lawsuit seeks to enjoin the Corps of Engineers from moving ahead with the deepening project until it conducts comprehensive sampling and analysis of sediment to be dredged from the Delaware River bottom.

Governor Corzine announced last week that the suit would be filed if the Army Corps did not suspend its plan to issue a “Notice to Proceed.”

“The Army Corp has decided to go ahead with its completely irresponsible plan to circumvent New Jersey’s strong environmental protection processes and plow blindly ahead with dredging,” Governor Corzine said. “I cannot allow the people of South Jersey to have these dredge spoils dumped on them.”

“Too many corners have been cut for a project of this magnitude to go forward,” said Attorney General Milgram. “Through today’s action, we intend to ensure that the Army Corps of Engineers is held accountable, that it complies with all applicable environmental laws, and that New Jersey’s vital natural resources are protected.”

“For more than a year the Department has repeatedly requested that the Army Corps of Engineers update the environmental analyses of the proposed deepening project and coordinate with the state of New Jersey to ensure that all environmental impacts of the project are adequately addressed,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello. “Unfortunately, the ACOE has ignored these requests and important environmental concerns, leaving us with no other recourse but to file this action.”
In addition to noting that insufficient sampling and analysis of sediment has taken place, the lawsuit charges failure by the Army Corps of Engineers to perform and update required environmental studies – environmental impact studies on the project date to the 1990s -- and failure to coordinate the deepening project with New Jersey’s own coastal management programs as required by the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

The state’s complaint charges failure by the Corps of Engineers to obtain a water quality certificate from the DEP as required by the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit also charges the Corps of Engineers with violating the federal Clean Air Act by proceeding with the dredging and deepening project before determining that it will conform to New Jersey’s federally-required State Implementation Plan for attaining national ambient air quality standards.

The deepening project will span 102 miles of the main channel of the Delaware River from Philadelphia to the Delaware Bay, and will encompass areas listed by the National Marine Fisheries Service as essential fish habitat.

Deputy Attorneys General Rachel Horowitz, Eileen Kelly, Kristen Heinzerling and Lauren Trasferini, assigned to the Division of Law’s Environmental Permitting and Counseling section, handled the Army Corps of Engineers lawsuit on behalf of the state.


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