The Lake Lanier Association and the other Georgia Parties filed their second brief in Phase 2 last Wednesday, February 10. The brief focused on arguments that had been raised by opposing parties, primarily Florida, in the first round. In essence, Florida had attacked the Biological Opinion, issued by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which found neither jeopardy to the species protected by the Endangered Species Act nor adverse impact to their critical habitats. Florida argued that the Service’s findings were incorrect and that Corps operations and the Biological Opinion violated the ESA. The Association and the other Georgia Parties argued that the Service correctly found no jeopardy or adverse impact, and that any prohibited take of protected animals was the result of drought and natural causes, which are beyond the control of the Corps.
There remains one more round of briefs, culminating on March 3, following which we expect Judge Magnuson to schedule oral argument prior to ruling on the issues in Phase 2.