||Army Corps Of
Engineers sued over wetlands degradation
By RAJU CHEBIUM Associated Press Writer
Jan. 30, 1997
MIAMI -- The U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers does little to prevent the
indiscriminate draining of the Everglades and sensitive
wetlands in the Florida Keys, contributing greatly to the
decline of one of the nation's most unique ecosystems, a
federal lawsuit charged Thursday.
The Corps is shirking its responsibility by failing to
enforce the federal Clean Water Act, which seeks to
protect the nation's wetlands and waterways, according to
the lawsuit filed by two environmental groups.
"The Army Corps is really not complying with the
Clean Water Act they're charged with implementing, and
they're not doing their job. So the result is that a
gross number of wetlands are getting filled that should
not be," said Gregg Goldfarb, a Miami lawyer who
sued on behalf of Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility and the Florida Keys Citizens Coalition.
"Wetlands are an extremely important part of the
environment all over the world, particularly in South
Florida and the Keys. What we're talking about is the
incessant, increasing destruction of the wetlands
throughout South Florida and the Keys," said Jeff
DeBonis, PEER's executive director.
The groups seeks a court order forcing the Corps to
comply with the water act; they say they have evidence of
flagrant violations and corruption at the agency.
Goldfarb acknowledged he has a tough job ahead because
it's difficult to get courts to issue such orders. But he
said he has evidence that the Corps' actions are
"arbitrary, capricious and without reason."
One of the groups' biggest allegations is the way the
Corps gives out permits to governments and private
The Corps refused comment on the lawsuit. Spokeswoman
Carol Sanders in Washington defended the agency, saying
it does a good job of balancing the interests of the
environment and the needs of businesses, developers,
local governments and other groups.
The Corps is a key player in the $1.5-billion Everglades
restoration project. Though state and local governments
and other federal agencies all have a hand in the
restoration of the unique ecosystem, the Corps'
involvement stretches back several decades.
The Corps planned a network of canals to control water
flow within the Everglades and supply drinking water to
South Florida's burgeoning population.
© 1997 News-Journal
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