Parts Of Two Bonnet Carré Lawsuits Dismissed

A federal judge in Mississippi ruled September 13 in two separate cases that his court did not have the authority to order the Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental review after the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway. 

U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by the state of Mississippi against the Corps over alleged damage to the Mississippi Sound caused by the spillway openings. He also dismissed part of a second lawsuit filed by Gulf Coast counties, cities and organizations. 

The judge left standing part of the second lawsuit that alleges violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

The Corps opens the spillway to protect New Orleans from potential flooding of the Mississippi River. The Bonnet Carré spillway was completed in 1931 and has been opened 15 times. Four of the openings occurred between 2018 and 2020. In 2019, it was open for 115 days, the first time the Corps opened the spillway twice in one year and the first time it was opened in consecutive years. 

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

The plaintiffs in the second suit include Harrison and Hancock counties, the cities of Biloxi, D’Iberville, Waveland, Diamondhead and Pass Christian, and the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association and Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United Inc. They filed the suit in late 2019 after the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway caused an algae bloom in the Mississippi Sound. Salinity levels were also reduced, leading to a petition by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant that led to a fisheries disaster declaration by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The plaintiffs’ counsel told a local newspaper the plaintiffs were considering their options.