Fund For Animals, Inc. v. Rice

85 F.3d 535 (11th Cir. 1995)


In 1989, The United States Army Corps of Engineers ('the Corps') received an application from Sarasota County for a permit of constructing an 895-acre landfill and required ancillary structures on a 6,150-acre site. The fill material will impact approximately seventy-four acres of isolated wetlands. The Corps dispersed notice of Sarasota County's application to government agencies, private organizations, and other interested persons. The EPA recommended denial of the permit under Section 404(b)(1) of the guidelines promulgated pursuant to the Clean Water Act. At that time, Sarasota County projected that the landfill would affect 120 acres of wetlands. Changes were made and by 1994, the E.P.A. notified the Corps that it no longer objected to the issuance of the permit. The Corps completed an Environmental Assessment and Statement of Findings, determining that no environmental impact statement was required. The Corps announced that a public hearing would not benefit the decision-making process. The Corps approved the requested permit on June 3, 1994. On June 17, 1994, Ps submitted a sixty-day notice of intent to sue. The Plaintiffs alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Two months later, the F.W.S. requested resumption of § 7 consultation under the ESA to allow consideration of any potential effect on the Florida Panther and the Eastern Indigo Snake. In October of 1994, the F.W.S. issued its first Biological Opinion that the project was unlikely to jeopardize further the existence of either the Florida Panther or the Eastern Indigo Snake. Ps commenced an action in federal district court against the Corps, the F.W.S., the E.P.A., and the Sarasota County Administrator. The Corps suspended Sarasota County's permit the next day, and on February 7, 1995, the Corps also suspended its verification of coverage for discharge of fill associated with the Knight's Trail Road extension project. F.W.S. issued a second Biological Opinion addressing concerns regarding the Florida Panther and the Eastern Indigo Snake. The Opinion concluded that the proposed project was unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of either the Florida Panther or the Eastern Indigo Snake. A modified permit was reinstated on April 13, 1995. Ps filed their Second Amended Complaint, raising claims under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. They requested declaratory and injunctive relief. Sarasota County agreed to halt construction temporarily to allow the district court time to reach a considered decision after full briefing on the merits. Ps consented to expedite the process of district court review. In particular, the parties agreed to submit the case to the court on cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Sarasota County and denied Ps' contingent request for discovery. An injunction was denied, and this appeal was taken.