Suit Filed Over City of Gulfport Wetland Violations

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2007Contacts:Derrick Evans, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, (228) 326-4004Jeff Grimes, Gulf Restoration Network, (504) 525-1528 x205Holly Gordon, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, (650) 725-4217Suit Filed Over City of Gulfport Wetland ViolationsCity of Gulfport Failed to Protect Vital Wetlands that Help Reduce FloodingGulfport, MS ” Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and the Gulf Restoration Network filed suit today against the City of Gulfport for violations of the Clean Water Act that threaten wetlands in the North Gulfport Community of the Turkey Creek watershed. In March of 2006, following excavation of a wetland site on Louisiana Avenue, a contractor for the City of Gulfport illegally dumped the excavated soils on a nearby wetland site on Polk Street. By dumping the material in an existing wetland, Gulfport and its contractor destroyed the functionality of the wetland and reduced its ability to absorb flood waters.”Our community has had serious flooding problems, and here you have our very own city illegally filling wetlands that help protect the community from flooding,” said Derrick Evans, Executive Director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and Turkey Creekkeeper. “Gulfport’s actions demonstrate the type of reckless disregard for communities and wetland protection that the City has shown for years.” On April 17, 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a Cease and Desist Order directing Gulfport to halt work in areas on the Louisiana Avenue site and the Polk Street site that fell within the jurisdiction of the Corps. The Corps had previously issued a permit to the City in 2001 for work at the Louisiana Ave. site as part of a stormwater drainage project. However, wetland impacts at the Louisiana Ave. site were greater than what the Corps authorized and none of the impacts to the wetland located at Polk St. had been authorized.The Corps’ Cease and Desist Order listed the following violations associated with the Project: “allowing excessive fill material in Turkey Creek at the project site, construction of the project drainage channel resulting in greater wetland impacts than authorized, the filling of a natural drain, and the placement of fill material on an adjacent wetland property on Polk Street resulting in the unauthorized filling of 1.38 acres of hardwood drain wetlands.” Despite issuing a Cease and Desist Order, the Corps has failed to require the City of Gulfport to restore the impacted wetlands. “This case is really part of a larger pattern in coastal Mississippi, where the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to protect wetlands and enforce the Clean Water Act,” said Jeff Grimes, Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network. “The Corps should have resolved this situation a long time ago, but because they haven’t done their job enforcing the wetland laws, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and the Gulf Restoration Network have had to get involved. Without proper enforcement of these wetland violations, there is no incentive for compliance.” Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and the Gulf Restoration Network have inquired about these violations on numerous occasions, and even met with the City of Gulfport and the Corps in October of 2006 to seek a resolution for the violations, yet no actions have been taken. “We had hoped that the Corps or the City of Gulfport would take corrective action, but neither have shown much interest in fixing this problem,” said Holly Gordon, an attorney representing the two groups.Turkey Creek Community Initiatives is a nonprofit organization focused on preservingTurkey Creek’s architectural, historical, and ecological character.The Gulf Restoration Network is a coalition of environmental, social justice, citizens’ groups, and individuals committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico to an ecologically and biologically sustainable condition.###

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