A federal court in New Jersey has rejected a challenge by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and several environmental groups to a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to dredge 102 miles of the Delaware River. New Jersey v. Corps, No. 09-5591 (D.N.J. 1/13/11). The court denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and granted the Corps’ cross-motion for summary judgment, concluding that none of the Corps’ decisions were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Corps’ plan calls for deepening the Delaware River from 40 to 45 feet from the Delaware Bay to the ports of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey, over a five-year period. Its purpose is to sustain the ports’ “vital economic contributions” by accommodating modern industrial shipping, which is turning to vessels with deeper drafts.

NJDEP filed its complaint in November 2009, claiming that certain Corps’ decisions made in connection with its plan violated NEPA, the Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act. In March 2010, the court consolidated the agency’s action with a related lawsuit brought by Delaware Riverkeeper and other environmental groups seeking to halt the dredging. In addition to claims raised in the NJDEP suit, this lawsuit also asserted claims under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Water Resources Development Act of 2007 and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Rejecting plaintiffs’ arguments, the court ruled that as to the NEPA claims, the Corps had conducted a “reasoned evaluation of the relevant information” in reaching its decision not to supplement its environmental impact statement. The court also summarily rejected plaintiffs’ claims that the Corps’ plan violated the remaining environmental statutes.