No ruling yet in Tired Creek suit, legal bills rise

It has been 14 months since the environmental groups known as American Rivers and its sister organization the Georgia River Network filed suit in United States District Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a federal 404 permit for the construction of the 960-acre Tired Creek fishing lake and there is still no ruling from a judge.
This action was originally filed in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Georgia in Savannah on Nov. 5, 2010. The environmentalists allege the Corps used flawed studies that overestimate the demand for the project and that the project would destroy over nine miles of streams and up to 518 acres of wetlands.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated the wetlands impacted by the Tired Creek project at just over 129 acres. Since the permit for the construction of the lake was issued to Grady County on May 28, 2010, the Grady County commission has successfully obtained all but a one-half acre tract of property required to mitigate the impacted stream banks and wetlands and construction plans for the dam are almost complete.
Grady County commissioners last week authorized County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley to proceed with condemnation procedures to acquire the final half acre tract to complete the mitigation acquisition.
The documents filed with the court by the Plaintiffs as part of the suit include affidavits from Grady County residents Bill Matturro, Peter Wright, and Margaret Tyson, as well as Grady County property owner Beth Grant in which these individual members of the Plaintiff organizations claim the construction of the lake will cause them damage by preventing them from hiking along the streams and bottom lands and canoeing on the Ochlockonee River.
After Georgia River Network filed the suit in federal court in November, 2010, Grady County sought the Court’s permission to join in the suit with the Corps as a codefendant to assist in defending the permit. Attorneys for the environmental groups serving as Plaintiffs solicited the Leon County, Florida, Commission to partner with the organization as plaintiffs in the case, which the Leon County Board of Commissioners did Feb. 22, 2011, on a 6-1 vote.
At that Leon County Commission meeting last year, Leon County Attorney Herbert W.A. Thiele estimated the county’s expense in participating in the lawsuit would not exceed $30,000.
The Leon County attorney said, “We expect the plaintiffs and their attorneys to do the heavy lifting.”
However, a review of public records by The Cairo Messenger shows that to date Leon County has spent $72,297.08 on the suit. Leon County is being represented by the Carr Allison law firm in the Tired Creek suit.
During the same period, Grady County has paid Athens based attorney Ed Tolley $56,251.41 to assist in defending the permit.
Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge, who made the motion last February to join in the suit, declined to comment on the cost of the law suit when contacted by The Cairo Messenger Monday. Leon County Attorney Thiele also declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
Grady County officials remain confident the court will uphold the Corp’s decision, but they hope the ruling is made soon.
Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye would not comment on the legal matter, but he did say, “I do wish the judge would go ahead and rule.”
According to Attorney Cauley, “pursuant to the scheduling order, the pleadings in the case closed at the end of December. I anticipate it will take the Court sometime to review the large administrative record and the numerous pleadings before ruling.”

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