National Wildlife Federation v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, No. 22-1466 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The Middle Mississippi is the 195-mile-long stretch from St. Louis, Missouri, where the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi, to Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi and doubles its flow. The 1910 Rivers and Harbors Act authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to construct permanent river training structures in the Middle Mississippi and perform supplemental dredging to maintain a channel sufficient for commercial traffic. The Corps has for decades built and maintained structures—dikes, jetties, and chevrons—along the Middle Mississippi to ensure that the channel is at least nine feet deep and 300 feet wide for commercial navigation. In 1976, under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Corps prepared an environmental impact statement (EIS) assessing the project's ecological impacts. In 2013, the Corps decided to supplement its 1976 EIS, based on newly designated threatened and endangered species, and new information on the effects of river training structures and dredging. In the final supplemental EIS and record of decision, the Corps chose the “Continue Construction Alternative.” Because the exact locations and types of future river training structures are unknown, the supplemental statement studied environmental impacts at a programmatic level and will perform site-specific environmental assessments before actually building additional river training structures.
In a challenge brought by environmental groups, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the government, rejecting arguments that the supplemental EIS did not comply with the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, 121 Stat. 1041, or the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321.