State of DE v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, No. 11-1283 (3d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
The federal government has maintained navigation in the Delaware River for more than 100 years. In 1992, the Army Corps of Engineers published an Environmental Impact Statement, recommending deepening of five feet along 102-miles. The EIS identified potential adverse impacts, but concluded these would be minimal and were outweighed by benefits of reduced shipping costs. In 1997, after engineering, the Corps published a Supplemental EIS. The project stalled until 2008, when the Philadelphia River Port Authority agreed to share costs. Improved technology reduced the amount of sediment; wetlands restoration was deferred. An oil spill had increased sediment toxicity. Expected expansion of sturgeon, potentially increased blasting risks. A 2009 Environmental Assessment recommended the project proceed. The district court rejected state challenges under the Coastal Zone Management Act, which requires a “consistency determination” for any state whose coastal zone will be affected, 16 U.S.C. 1456(c)(1); the Clean Water Act, which requires compliance with state water pollution law, 33 U.S.C. 1323(a); and the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321. The states had attempted to revoke CZMA clearances. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that dredging has begun. The 2009 EA was not arbitrary. CWA’s “congressionally authorized” exception to state approvals applies. The Corps reasonably concluded that it need not provide supplemental CZMA consistency determinations to states.