For the better part of a month, the Sea Island Company has been in the process of building a second groin on the Sea Island spit — a structure meant to preserve beachfront ahead of the company’s anticipated development of the thin strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Blackbanks River.
The Altamaha Riverkeeper and One Hundred Miles filed a motion Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court to expedite their case against the Army Corps of Engineers, stating that on Nov. 13, “counsel for Sea Island indicated to plaintiffs that Sea Island had begun construction of the T-head groin.” Six days later, a representative of the Riverkeeper and OHM went to the site and took a photograph of evidence of work at the site.
Between the filing of the complaint and the plaintiffs’ request to speed things along, Sea Island Acquisition made a motion to intervene as a defendant in the suit. William Sapp, Megan Hinkle Huynh and Bob Sherrier of the Southern Environmental Law Center — who are representing the plaintiffs in the case — wrote in a response filed the same day as the motion to expedite that the plaintiffs have no problem with Sea Island Acquisition joining the case, and in fact expected the entity to do so, so long as that action doesn’t slow the case’s progress. The ACE also did not object to the intervention request.
The next day, Nov. 21, counsel for Sea Island Acquisition filed a response to the plaintiffs’ first preliminary injunction motion and requested an evidentiary hearing. Patricia Barmeyer and Randy Butterfield of King & Spalding, representing Sea Island Acquisition, stated that the company has no problem with an expedited timeline, but “does believe that a hearing should be held before the court makes a decision on the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.
“Further, Sea Island requests that it be afforded the opportunity to present testimony and other evidence demonstrating the significant and irreparable harm that it would suffer should plaintiffs’ extraordinary request be granted.”
The Sea Island attorneys wrote that the value of The Reserve — the name of the proposed spit development — is estimated at more than $30 million, and that an injunction against the second groin would “threaten Sea Island’s ability to protect the entire developed Sea Island shoreline,” along with the fact that “consequences of even a temporary construction delay would be enormous.”
On Nov. 30, the Riverkeeper and OHM subsequently filed an amended motion for preliminary injunction, while also requesting the possibility of a temporary restraining order, because construction of the second groin is ongoing. In this filing, plaintiffs’ counsel included a photo taken by former Altamaha Riverkeeper James Holland, showing an aerial view of the spit and work completed up to Nov. 29.
Monday, the ACE filed its response to the amended motion, reiterating its earlier opposition to the preliminary injunction and adding to that its opposition to the temporary restraining order request.
Martha Mann and Dedra Curteman, representing the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the ACE, wrote that the plaintiffs didn’t file any affidavit of support for their preliminary injunction motion or with the amended motion including the temporary restraining order, and hadn’t “pointed the court to ‘specific facts’ in their complaint regarding the immediate and irreparable injury they will allegedly suffer if a temporary restraining order is not granted.”
They citied a 2013 case from the Southern District of Georgia in which a temporary restraining order was refused for lack of specific facts showing immediate and irreparable harm.
As neither the ACE nor Sea Island Acquisition oppose the plaintiffs’ motion to expedite, an order setting forth a new timeline should be forthcoming. Responses to the plaintiffs’ amended motion are due by Dec. 14.
In the second case regarding the spit brought against the ACE, Center for a Sustainable Coast counsel Kasey Sturm filed a consent motion Monday with the SELC lawyers that would consolidate the Center’s case with the one filed by the Riverkeeper and OHM. A footnote in the filing states, “Counsel for plaintiff Center for a Sustainable Coast has conferred with defendants’ counsel, who has confirmed that defendants do not oppose consolidation.
“As a courtesy, counsel for plaintiff Center for a Sustainable Coast has also provided notice of the consent motion for consolidation to” Sea Island Acquisition, which at this point is still a proposed intervenor in the matter. Responses to the consolidation motion are due by Dec. 17.