Gulf of Mexico
Crews in this file photo open part of the Bonnet Carre Spillway(John Snell)

MS - Court rules Army Corps of Engineers violated law, damaged marine life in Miss. Sound

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created environmental harm in the Mississippi Sound when it opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway without consulting the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The court ruled Wednesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (the MSA), meant to “conserve and manage the fishery resources found off the coasts of the United States.”

“Plaintiffs’ declarations have demonstrated that the Corps created an increased risk of actual, threatened, or imminent environmental harm that directly affected the Plaintiffs when it opened the Spillway without consulting the Fisheries Service,” court documents say.

The Corps must now consult with the National Marine Fisheries about damage to marine life in the Mississippi Sound caused from the opening of the Spillway before September 30 of this year.

The Corps constructed the Spillway upstream of New Orleans, meant to divert water from the Mississippi River into Lake Ponchartrain. But after entering the Lake, the water diverted by the Spillway flows into Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound.

Several cities, counties and businesses across the Mississippi Gulf Coast sued the Corps, claiming the more frequent, lengthier openings of the Spillway in recent years have caused significant damage to the environment and economy of the Coast.

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Court documents detail the struggles of fishery and tourism businesses on the Coast, from seafood and live bait businesses to hotels.

Ryan Bradley, Executive Director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, submitted two declarations to the court, detailing his inability to harvest wild oysters and the difficulties he faced caused by the relocation of red snapper.

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