A federal judge Monday denied a motion by the Altamaha Riverkeeper and One Hundred Miles to bring a preliminary injunction to halt the construction of a second groin on the Sea Island spit.
In his order, U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall noted that a district court can only grant a preliminary injunction when the moving party shows that it has a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits,” that the moving parties “will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction is issued,” that the injury to the moving parties outweighs possible injury to the opposing party, and that the injunction would not be a disservice to the public interest.
In its motion, the plaintiffs stated that the Army Corps of Engineers — in finding no significant impact of Sea Island’s actions in constructing the second groin and adding some 2.5 million cubic yards of sand to the beach — violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Hall ruled that the plaintiffs in this case didn’t meet any of the four prerequisites. He cited a number of cases, including a U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from 2005 in which the judges stated, “The reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency but must instead, defer to the agency’s technical expertise.”
Hall wrote that while the plaintiffs may be correct in that beach nourishment without a groin is the most common path taken for beach nourishment projects in the country, “the Corps had to analyze the project in light of its purpose, its intended long-term effects and surroundings. The court finds the Corps’ alternatives analysis was neither arbitrary nor capricious.”
In regard to possible detrimental effects to shorebirds, sea turtles and other wildlife, Hall states in a footnote that while the National Marine Fisheries Service found the Corps’ response to those concerns lacking, “the Corps still provided its reason for fining the effects insignificant by stating the affected area is small and there is ample habitat upstream and downstream from the project for the wildlife.
“Ultimately, even with their disagreement, NMFS concluded the Corps complied with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. … Thus, it was neither arbitrary nor capricious for the Corps to find no significant effects.”
Further, Hall wrote that while the court “recognizes the importance of preventing environmental harm,” the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden that “irreparable harm is likely to occur during the pendency of this suit.”
With the denial, Hall also ruled the plaintiff’s amended motion for preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order was moot because it didn’t state any new claim for relief. Also rendered moot was Sea Island Acquisition’s evidentiary hearing motion, since Hall denied the preliminary injunction outright before such a hearing could be scheduled. However, he did grant the plaintiffs’ motion for expedited consideration of the case.