Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lawsuit Filed Against Delaware Deepening To Protect the River and All Who Depend Upon It.

November 19, 2009, on behalf of 5 citizen environmental organizations including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, National Wildlife Federation, New Jersey Environmental Federation, Delaware Nature Society, Clean Water Action the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's River Resources Law Clinic  filed an independent legal challenge in Federal in District Court in New Jersey against the Delaware Deepening proposal. The groups also filed in Delaware District Court to intervene in the legal action brought against the deepening by the State of Delaware.

When the Army Corps announced that it was going to proceed with the Deepening project at this time, it was announcing its intent to violate no less than 7 federal environmental and community protection laws as well as state environmental and community protection laws.
In addition to being a flagrant violation of state and federal law, the decision by the Army Corps to move forward with the deepening without needed Delaware and New Jersey permits and approvals is a stripping of state environmental protection authority that cannot be allowed to stand.

While it is critically important that both NJ and DE have filed to challenge the actions of the Army Corps, the legal challenges they brought were much more focused on the states’ rights issues. NJ’s action was broader than Delaware’s and included more environmental claims to be sure, but neither included the full array of environmental harms that is included in our litigation.

The Delaware River provides the foundation for our healthy economy and healthy communities. Our environmental protection laws and government agencies are meant to protect the River and environment for us all.

This is not about jobs versus the environment – this is about protecting both.

The Army Corps has made clear that the Delaware deepening project will not increase the quantities of goods that come up the River – the benefits are only increased efficiencies, not more tonnage.

The undocumented claims of jobs being made by Pennsylvania are not the result of the deepening project, they are the result of other port development projects.

Deepening the Delaware puts at risk a wide array of fish, shellfish, and wildlife that are critical for providing hundreds of millions of dollars of income and jobs to our communities, region and nationwide.

The oysters that the deepening threatens provides up to $3 million dollars of economic benefit to our region.

The horseshoe crabs that the deepening threatens is not only critical for ensuring vaccines and medical devices are safe for use by humans, but supports a $150 million biomedical industry and is the basis of $34 million of ecotourism income to our region.

The commercial and recreational fisheries of our Estuary, Bay and River is another multi-million dollar industry that supports many, many jobs directly and indirectly. For example, in Pennsylvania, fishing activities are credited with generating $4.7 billion per year in revenue and supporting 43,000 jobs -- while this is not only from the Delaware Estuary, it gives a sense of how important fishing is economically to our watershed states. Sale of fishing licenses generates tens of millions for the budgets of our river states including $19 million in PA, $4 million in NJ and $200,000 in DE.

The deepening project, according to the record, will not create jobs.  But it will harm them.

At the same time it threatens drinking water supplies as well as wetlands that are important for not only environmental protection but providing storm protection to our communities.

That the Army Corps of Engineers awould be willing to break the law in order to press forward a dangerous project that threatens our environment, our drinking water, and all of the jobs that depend upon clean water and healthy fish, oyster and birding communities of the Delaware river is unconscionable. When Government is willing to break the law, citizens must rise up and defend it – that is what we are doing – defending our right to clean water, clean air, fish we can catch and feed our children, wetlands and floodplains that protect us from pollution and floods.

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