Court Ruling Clears Hurdle toward Lasting Protections for Puget Sound Shorelines

Posted February 8, 2019 at 5:20 am by

Thanks to Katie Flem­ing at the Friends of the San Juans for send­ing us this report… 

Puget Sound Armoring* - Contributed photo

On Feb­ru­ary 6, a fed­er­al judge reject­ed an effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers (“Corps”) to dis­miss a law­suit chal­leng­ing its refusal to ade­quate­ly pro­tect shore­line areas in Puget Sound. The Court’s deci­sion means the law­suit, which charges that the agency has refused to assert its Clean Water Act juris­dic­tion over most shore­line armor­ing in Puget Sound, will go forward.

Sound Action, Wash­ing­ton Envi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil, and Friends of the San Juans filed the suit in May of 2018. The groups con­tend a strong fed­er­al pol­i­cy to pro­tect shore­lines is crit­i­cal to Puget Sound recov­ery and the sur­vival of endan­gered orcas.

The coali­tion, rep­re­sent­ed by the non­prof­it envi­ron­men­tal law firm Earth­jus­tice, is call­ing for fed­er­al over­sight of shore­line armor­ing by rais­ing what the Corps’ Seat­tle Dis­trict con­sid­ers the “high tide line” to bet­ter pro­tect at-risk species and shore­lines. The law­suit also calls for a response to the groups’ 2015 peti­tion ask­ing for juris­dic­tion­al deci­sions on four shore­line armor­ing projects.

The Army Corps has been unlaw­ful­ly lim­it­ing its juris­dic­tion under the Clean Water Act, allow­ing harm­ful shore­line armor­ing projects to move for­ward with­out prop­er over­sight here in the Sal­ish Sea. We’re glad to see that the case is mov­ing for­ward,” said Jen­nifer Barce­los, attor­ney at Friends of the San Juans.

The Army Corps should spend less time fil­ing point­less motions in Court and more time get­ting on board with the rest of the region in pro­tect­ing crit­i­cal shore­line habi­tat,” said Anna Sewell of Earth­jus­tice, lead attor­ney for the plain­tiffs. “The Corps should stop fight­ing this law­suit and start imple­ment­ing the law so that Puget Sound’s salmon and South­ern Res­i­dent orcas have a shot at sur­vival.”

* Pho­to cap­tion: Shore­line armor­ing, the place­ment of hard struc­tures along shore­lines to pre­vent ero­sion, pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant risk to the coastal habi­tats of Puget Sound. Pho­tos cour­tesy of Ingrid Tay­lar, Flickr, Kyle Loring/Friends of the San Juans, Hugh Shipman/WA Depart­ment of Ecology

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