According to nola.com, several
environmental groups have recently taken action against the Army Corps of
Engineers because they claim that the Corps has failed to take into account the
environmental impacts of opening and closing the Bonnet Carré Spillway time and
Healthy Gulf, a New Orleans-based
environmental group, and the Defenders of Wildlife, a national environmental
group, have both taken steps in the past week to sue the Corps, noting that
they violated the Endangered Species Act when they proceeded without advice from federal wildlife agencies,
regarding the danger of opening the spillway.
Cynthia Sarthou, Healthy Gulf's executive
director, explained, "The fact that the Army Corps has had to open the Bonnet
Carré Spillway four times in three years is unprecedented." She emphasized the
drastic impact it has had on the environment ever since its conception a
hundred years ago. "Clearly it is time for the Corps to take a fresh look at
how the project is being managed and what can be done to reduce negative
impacts to threatened and endangered species," she continued.
However, the Corps has yet to make a peep on
The spillway was opened earlier this month, its
sixth time in 10 years. Having been constructed after the 1927 Mississippi
River flood, the spillway is utilized when water overflows the levees in the
New Orleans area. This water, rich with fertilizers and other pollutants, finds
its way into Lake Pontchartrain and on into the Gulf of Mexico, where its
impact only grows and intensifies.
Since there have been more frequent storms of varying
strengths as of late, the spillway has been opened several times in recent
years. And sometimes, it's left open too long. For instance, algae bloomed on
the beaches of Mississippi coastal counties, killing oysters in Mississippi and
even Louisiana. The lengthy opening was also blamed for a reduction in shrimp
The lawsuit points out these pollutants and
how they travel through different bodies of water, creating low-oxygen "dead
zones" in the Gulf. However, the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife
noted, the Corps "has never rigorously studied the effect of opening the
spillway on imperiled wildlife or protected habitats as required by the
Endangered Species Act."
The environmental groups and their lawyers
hope to force the Corps to consider the spillway's effects on endangered
species, such as loggerhead, leatherback, green, Kemp's ridley, and hawksbill
sea turtles; piping plover and red knot birds; West Indian manatees; and Gulf
subspecies of Atlantic sturgeon.
This case arrives only months after the Corps
was initially sued over the spillway openings. In December, a lawsuit claimed
ecological damage and explained how the constant reopening of the spillway acts
as a violation of federal law.