- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The U.S. Solicitor General has filed a brief to formally support South Florida water managers involved in a precedent-setting case before the U.S. Supreme Court, dealing a blow to Miccosukee Indian Tribe members and environmentalists trying to force the treating of floodwaters before they are pumped into the fragile Everglades.
A friend of the court brief by the Solicitor General asserts that lower federal courts wrongly interpreted the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA) and that a court of appeals' requirements on a pumping station are "unlikely to provide any substantial environmental benefits. Rather, it would likely misdirect governmental resources and potentially hinder the Everglades restoration process."
The Supreme Court, which was asked to overturn the lower court ruling, sought the opinion of the Solicitor General, who argues cases before the high court. The court can still decide to take up the appeal by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the agency charged with implementing the Congressionally mandated $8 billion restoration project.
The flood-control pumping plant in question releases 432,000 gallons of water per minute into the Everglades after major rainfalls. Environmentalists contend that pollutants such as phosphates from fertilizers are degrading the Everglades' fragile ecosystem. The Miccosukees claim the pumping station sends polluted water onto their land.
The tribe joined forces with the environmentalist group Friends of the Everglades to file suit in 1998, alleging violations of the federal CWA. The district argued its pumping did not constitute discharge of a pollutant because it had not added the phosphorous or any other pollutant to the pumped water.
SFWMD's position is now supported by 14 briefs filed with the Supreme Court on behalf of 49 interested groups. These groups represent a significant cross-section of the country and include 11 state governments, numerous water management agencies nationwide and a host of private sector groups. Lawyers are scheduled to argue the case before the Supreme Court in January. See www.sfwmd.gov/ and www.everglades.org.