By Gina Passarella
Of the Legal Staff
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has greenlighted the dredging of the Delaware River.
A three-judge panel of the court upheld the rulings of district courts in New Jersey and Delaware that each found no environmental statutes would be breached by deepening the river five feet in an effort to make the river’s ports more commercially viable. It was a project backed by Pennsylvania.
The ruling is a victory for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was first appropriated funds for the project in 1992 and looked to start it in earnest in 2009 before several legal challenges arose from New Jersey, Delaware and various environmental groups. Partial wins along the way allowed the Corps to dredge portions of the river.
“For over 20 years, the Corps has devoted substantial efforts to evaluating the proposed five-foot deepening project for the Delaware River,” Judge Anthony J. Scirica said for the majority. “It has published three comprehensive NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] reports, received multiple rounds of public comments, and had immeasurable communications with the relevant state and federal agencies. Its decision in 2009 to proceed with the project was consistent with NEPA, the [Clean Water Act], and the [Coastal Zone Management Act.]”
Judges Julio M. Fuentes and Thomas M. Hardiman joined Scirica’s ruling, outlined in a 67-page opinion.