S.C. COASTAL CONSERVATION LEAGUE v. U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, NO. 14-1796

Decided: June 17, 2015

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the action as moot because Plaintiff failed to offer additional basis for standing, and also denied Plaintiff motion seeking leave to amend its First Amended Complaint.

Plaintiff, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (the “League”) is a non-profit corporation with a mission to protect the natural environment of the South Carolina coastal plain. The League brought the instant case against various parties to stop what it “fears will be significant degradation to the 485 acres of freshwater and wetlands and its conversion to saltwater wetlands.” Defendant South Coast Mitigation Group, LLC (“South Coast”), owns the tract of land at issue. South Coast wishes to allow its entire 700-acre tract, of which the 485 acres of freshwater and wetlands are a part of, to become a functioning tidal marsh integrated with the Savannah River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (the “Corps”) concluded that there would be no significant impact from South Coast’s project proposal based on the Corps’ environmental assessment of the project. The League fears that unless the project is stopped, saline water from the Savannah River will intrude onto the Embanked Tract and cause conversion of the freshwater wetlands to saltwater wetlands, therefore harming its members’ use and enjoyment of the Lower Savannah River ecosystem.  South Coast conducted tests between January 2014 and February 2014 regarding the salinity of the water. The League also submitted affidavits of three wetland experts.

The district court found the League’s claims to be moot based on a change in facts because the water in the Embanked Tract already contained more saline than the water the League was trying to prevent from entering the Embanked Tract. Therefore, no meaningful relief could be provided for the League’s feared harm of the wetlands on the Embanked Tract turning from freshwater wetlands to saltwater wetlands.

The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court and found that the League had provided no evidence to challenge the salinity readings relied upon by the district court in making its mootness determination.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Full Opinion

Meredith Weisler

 

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