WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorized a wastewater pipeline that will illegally destroy 16.12 acres of wetlands around the Ouachita River in El Dorado, Arkansas, environmental groups say in Federal Court.
Ouachita Riverkeeper and Save the Ouachita claim the Corps of Engineers’ authorization of the project under a general permit violates federal law, which restricts such authorization to projects that damage less than half an acre of wetlands.
“In contrast, the El Dorado Pipeline Project will injure or destroy at least twenty-nine wetland areas, thirteen of which are each – standing alone – larger than half an acre,” the complaint states. “Additionally the Corps’ failure to complete an environmental impact statement violates federal law.”
The groups say the Corps violated the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to meet legal requirements for public notice and public comment on wetlands destruction permits. They also claim the Corps failed to issue a report on the environmental impact of the project, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
According to the complaint, El Dorado Water Utilities submitted its application for a Clean Water Act dredge and fill permit for the El Dorado Pipeline project in June 2010. The groups say that the purpose of the project is to connect three industries and El Dorado Water Utilities to a combined pipeline for transporting treated wastewater to a discharge point in the Ouachita River.
The project will cover approximately 23.5 miles and will require a 50-foot-wide clearing for the line, the groups say, and will require “complete vegetation clearing along the entire length of the pipeline.”
The groups claim that “as many as thirteen of the identified wetland areas requiring mitigation are each individually larger than half an acre,” but the Corps issued a single authorization for the project in July 2010 without completing an environmental assessment.
“The Corps’ calculation of wetland loss resulting from the proposed project does not include the impacts created by the permanent presence of the subsurface pipeline on waters of the United States.
“The permanent presence of the subsurface pipeline is a permanent adverse effect on waters of the United States,” the complaint states.
The groups say the project will have significant adverse and cumulative impacts on the environment, and that the Corps “did not articulate an explanation for its action when it authorized the proposed project.”
They sued the Corps and its commanding general, Major Gen. Merdith W.B. Temple, seeking declaratory relief, and order declaring the project illegal and invalid, and vacating the Corps’ authorization.
They are represented by Adam Babich with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic in New Orleans.