Federal judge throws out suit over widening waterway

February 15, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit claiming that a wide federal canal has expanded well beyond the boundaries set in a 1920s agreement and is eating away at state land in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office didn’t prove the case belonged in federal court, U.S. District Judge Michael Juneau said in a ruling signed Thursday and put online Friday.

“The court’s decision was not based on the merits of our case; rather, it was on jurisdiction,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Stiles responded in an emailed statement. “While we received this procedural setback, it will not deter us from moving forward on the claims.”

Attorneys are considering options including appeal, agency spokesman Jacques Ambers said in an email.

Louisiana contends that the Army Corps of Engineers is to blame for land lost from the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, because the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway has more than doubled its legal width of 300 feet (90 meters) in some places.

The 71,900-acre (29,000-hectare) White Lake property is, among other things, where whooping cranes are released each winter in an attempt to create a self-sustaining flock in Louisiana’s marshes.

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, a 1,300-mile-long (2,100-kilometer-long) canal, described on a 1993 Corps map as “The happy marriage of commerce and ecology,” runs along the Gulf of Mexico coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to St. Marks, Florida.

When the lawsuit was filed a year ago, Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said in a news release that they were trying to hold the Corps accountable for the canal’s part in coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.