Judge vows prompt decision on Riverkeeper’s bid to stop river deepening

A choice on St. Johns Riverkeeper’s eleventh-hour try to stop dredging the ship channel might go right down to the wire as a decide stated Thursday she is going to rule “promptly” however can’t assure it can come earlier than the corporate employed to do the dredge arrives later this month with its crews and gear.

U.S. District Decide Marcia Howard heard 4 hours of arguments on the Riverkeeper’s request for an injunction that may cease the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers from starting the primary three-mile part of deepening the river.

The Corps awarded the dredging contract to the Dutra Group in September. Dutra, which is wrapping up work at Port Canaveral, might transfer its gear to Jacksonville as quickly as Jan. 15 and no later than Jan. 29, stated U.S. Division of Justice lawyer Stephen Finn.

Finn stated that when the corporate has its gear in place, the Corps will begin incurring prices for the dredge even when no work is being accomplished.

Howard stated that that previous to Thursday’s listening to, she had anticipated to have the ability to situation a ruling by Jan. 15, however which may not be the case after listening to the arguments unfold within the courtroom.

“As the problems morphed on this, I’m far much less assured I’ll have a choice by then,” Howard stated.

She stated the Riverkeeper has a stake in finishing up its mission of advocating for the well being of the St. Johns River, whereas the Corps and the Jacksonville Port Authority have been investing money and time for greater than a decade to get the undertaking to the place it’s on the verge of starting.

“I’m not going to be hurried,” she stated. “That is too necessary to each side.”

The Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit final April contending the Corps failed to completely account for the environmental hurt of dredging and in addition fell brief at proving the financial justification for the costly venture. It might value $684 million to dredge thirteen miles of the river to a depth of forty seven ft from its present forty-foot depth.

Howard gained’t rule till later this yr on that lawsuit, so the Riverkeeper sought to pressure the difficulty sooner by submitting in December for an injunction, which has a better authorized bar to satisfy.

The Riverkeeper contends that whereas the Corps did an environmental influence assertion on the environmental and financial points of deepening thirteen miles, the Corps and JaxPort have determined to shorten the scope to eleven miles.

An eleven-mile deepening would scale back the price of dredging to $484 million, however it might…

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