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Third Circuit Allows Delaware River Deepening to Proceed

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here's some news on the Delaware River channel dispute.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has chimed in, upholding prior rulings by federal district courts in Trenton (NJ) and Wilmington (DE). The ruling opens the door to the continuation of the deepening project. The project would deepen the channel from 40 feet to 45 feet, a move that was opposed by some environmental groups, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The deepening of the channel is also opposed by the state of New Jersey. In fact, the original lawsuit was brought not only by environmental groups, but also by New Jersey and Delaware. Delaware has since switched sides on the case, but New Jersey remains firm.

The initial lawsuit was brought under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals failed to find any violation of these laws. The decision was based on the thoroughness of the environmental studies conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The opinion itself is 76 pages so we won't go into the details of the entire opinion. Essentially, the court concluded its opinion with a statement that the Army Corps had devoted over 20 years to the evaluation on the environmental effects of the deepening project. As such, the court noted that the Corps had presented "three comprehensive NEPA reports" and had "received multiple rounds of public comments."

Thus far, an 11-mile stretch of the river has already been deepened, reports CBS. The ruling allows the Corps to continue the deepening project, with the next phase set to begin in September.

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