Bayou City Waterkeeper Urges Federal Court to Protect Texas Coastal Prairie Wetlands
Outlines Impact of Corps of Engineers’ Historical Practices on Regional Flooding and Water Quality.
HOUSTON, TX – Late last week, Bayou City Waterkeeper filed an amicus brief urging Galveston-based federal district judge George C. Hanks, Jr. to uphold the 2015 Clean Water Rule and its protections for Texas coastal prairie wetlands. These wetlands are found around the greater Galveston-Houston area and give communities across the region a range of irreplaceable benefits valued at billions of dollars: stormwater detention, coastal protection from storm surges, and water filtration for regional bayou networks and Galveston Bay, as well as environments for local wildlife, sport, and recreation.
Real estate developers who face tighter restrictions under the Clean Water Rule, along with the State of Texas, filed lawsuits in Galveston in 2015 and 2018 to challenge the Rule. While the Court awaits briefing, a temporary injunction is in place preventing the implementation of the Clean Water Rule in Texas, along with Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Clean Water Rule strengthens and clarifies water quality protections nationwide and directs regulators to consider the special functions and nature of Texas coastal prairie wetlands when evaluating jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
Statement from Kristen Schlemmer, Legal Director
“The Galveston-Houston region has permanently lost significant amounts of Texas coastal prairie wetlands at a rapid rate to real estate development, particularly in west Houston, because of a uniquely lax policy that favors real estate development over wetlands protection. This policy was adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Galveston District based on its misinterpretation of Supreme Court case law and has gone uncorrected for nearly twenty years. The Clean Water Rule corrects that policy by clarifying when the Clean Water Act protects Texas coastal prairie wetlands, but cannot function as intended because of the lawsuits filed by real estate developers.
“If implemented, the Rule would go a long way toward preserving our region’s remaining wetlands and creating substitutes to account for any wetland losses. While the Rule does not offer protections for wetlands in all cases, the benefits of wetland protection are incalculable to our region, and we believe the Court has no option but to uphold the Rule.”