Lydia Ann Channel Wins Another Victory In Texas District Court
Lydia Ann Channel Moorings LLC (LACM), which has been battling a series of lawsuits from local groups opposed on environmental grounds to its fleeting service, won a victory March 24 when a district court dismissed a suit by Friends of Lydia Ann Channel (FLAC), a group formed by local landowners and environmentalists who claimed the fleeting facility caused a “public nuisance” under Texas common law.
The Lydia Ann Channel is part of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Corpus Christi. In 2014, the fleet’s operators obtained a 20-year lease from the Texas Land Office to operate at the site. The fleet consists of more than 8,500 linear feet of steel moorings driven a minimum of 30 feet below the mud line with a minimum controlled depth of 12 feet of water.
The Corps issued its initial permit on January 15, 2015, writing, “[T]he structures and work were determined to be minor, would not have significant individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values and should have encountered no appreciable opposition.” LACM built and began to operate the facility in March 2015.
The Corps revoked the facility’s permit, however, after local interests opposed to the facility formed FLAC and brought a complaint against the Corps, which then said it found that the pilings were not as described in the permit. The court allowed LACM to intervene.
The earlier suit had claimed the fleet’s operations threatened two local species of endangered turtles. A judge agreed and issued a preliminary injunction against the fleet.
But that suit was thrown out on appeal. The appeals court found that there was no evidence of a single instance of harm to turtles. Furthermore, the appeals court said, private entities cannot be enjoined for alleged violations of the Administrative Procedure Act by the Corps.
After the overturning of the injunction in 2017, FLAC tried a new tack, suing LACM directly and claiming the site constituted a “public nuisance” under Texas common law. That was the claim thrown out in the March 24 ruling. The court said the plaintiff’s federal claims are “not ripe,” and therefore the court had no basis to exercise jurisdiction over LACM’s state-law claim, either.
The suit was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning it could be refiled.
Since the 2017 ruling, the fleet has been free to operate. “Business has been good,” owner Todd Mays said. “We’re happy that this is behind us and we can continue our business.”