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Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, Case Study Example

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Words: 569

Case Study

The full name of this case is Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 33 U.S.C. 1344(f)(2)). The date of the decision was May 27, 2008 in the United States District Court, Sothern District of Georgia Statesboro Division. In this case, the plaintiff, Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, Inc., claimed  that the United States Army Corps of Engineers unlawfully approve an exemption to the Clean Water Act regulation. This decision would result in contamination of nearby water and the purpose of the act was to prevent timber collection and other procedures from interfering with good water quality. The defendant, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, complained that the exemption was allowed on the basis that the harvest in question was a part of ongoing tree farming operations, which were grounds for exemption.

In this case, the court was being asked to decide what is defined as an ongoing tree farming operation. The plaintiff argued that this situation was not indicative of an ongoing tree farming operation, while the defendant claimed it was. The particular regulation that is under debate is the Clean Water Act § 404, which allows the corps to “issue permits … for the discharge of dredged or fill material into the navigable waters at specified disposal sites.” However, the activities that can be approved under this definition only include “normal farming silviculture”, in which “normal” is defined activities that are “part of an established (i.e., on-going)farming, silviculture, or ranching operation….”. This case aimed to determine a clearer definition of an “established farming operation”.

Ultimately, the Corps decided that the definition of ongoing silviculture is an operation that had occurred in the past. Attempting to collect timber in an area where collection had not occurred prior would therefore not fall under the exemption to the Clean Water Act. However, they argued that since stumps were present in the land being considered, the definition of ongoing silviculture had been met. However, Riverkeeper argued that the presence of stumps is not indicative of previous farming.

Since the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. are responsible for regulating the Clean Water Act, the court decided that “[c]ourts grant an agency’sinterpretation of its own regulations considerablelegal leeway”.  However, previous harvesting is not measured by the presence of stumps because trees can be removed for many reasons.  In addition, since attempts were not made to ensure future tree growth after the harvest, the evidence contrasted the desire to continue harvesting trees from the area. Therefore, the Court decided that the Corps is not allowed to issue an exemption on this basis.

The impact of this decision is that the Corps is required to use a stricter definition of ongoing silviculture in their ability to give exemptions. As an environmental health professional, this is beneficial because it will allow for enhanced protection of water sources. Stricter regulations are beneficial to the environment and there is a lesser chance that this water will become polluted as a consequence. This case is also significant because it reduces the United States Army Corps of Engineers power in this type of matter, which gives more power to the Environmental Protection Agency. Since this agency is primarily concerned with environmental safety, it is likely that it will make responsible decisions concerning these matters.

Works Cited

Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper, Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 33 U.S.C. 1344(f)(2)

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