The Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLGS) has filed an Amicus Brief in the case State of Alabama v. United States Army Corps of Engineers in the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Clinic had previously filed an Amicus Brief in the case in a lower court. The Brief was filed on behalf of counties and individuals who live in the Apalachicola sub-basin of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Watershed. The brief argues that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the significant impacts to the economic, cultural, and social lives of the communities within the Apalachicola sub-basin of the ACF Basin.
The Apalachicola River runs from the Florida-Georgia border through the Florida panhandle where it enters the Gulf of Mexico between the cities of Apalachicola and Eastpoint. It is fed by the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that have extensive dam and lock systems managed by the Army Corps. For decades, the Army Corps have imposed a “low-flow regime” to support inland waterway navigation and agriculture, that undermined the economic, cultural, and social fabric of the communities along the Apalachicola River by disrupting the river’s natural cycles.
The Apalachicola River supported fisherman and farmers with abundance for generations. Until recently a majority of the region’s workforce was employed by the seafood industry. Swamps fed by the river supported a multimillion-dollar honey industry as few as 10 years ago. The drying river has hollowed out the region’s seafood and agricultural industry, the poverty rate has risen to more than 4 times the national average.
"The Court needs to correct a fundamentally flawed process that allowed federal water managers to utterly disregard the social, economic and cultural impacts on thousands of people and their lands,” said Professor Michael Harris, director of the Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School. “We can’t balance the interest of mega water users and ignore the very people that actually understand and rely upon the river system."
The parties in the case include the US Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Georgia, and large Atlanta metro area municipalities who rely on the ACF basin for water. These comparative titans have overlooked the needs of some of the most vulnerable residents in the watershed, who have suffered for decades because of the Corps’ mismanagement. The Amici the brief is filed on behalf of are farmers, oystermen, seafood processors and dealers from throughout the Apalachicola region. Our brief asks the court to take their need for the return of the river’s natural cycles to support the Apalachicola ecosystem and their livelihoods.
About Vermont Law and Graduate School: Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s premier environmental law program. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, Environmental Justice Clinic, and Center for Justice Reform. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.