(MIAMI, OK.) A major victory was won by the City of Miami and its partners in the long battle over the extensive flooding caused by the Grand River Dam Authority’s (GRDA) operations of the Pensacola Project No. 1494 before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). An order issued by FERC on Jan. 18, 2024, conclusively found that “the project has increased flooding around the City of Miami,” and that GRDA’s current FERC license “requires GRDA to acquire adequate property rights in perpetuity to accomplish all project purposes, including flood control. The order also indicates that GRDA has been in violation of its license since 1997 due to its failure to acquire those property rights from those who have been flooded.
“This is good win for our citizens,” Miami Mayor Bless Parker said. “These facts matter, and this proves the fight for our city and its residents was worth the battle. It’s a huge victory for our citizens and our tribal partners that have suffered the continual flooding for close to 40 years. It’s nice to finally get some traction and to be heard at a federal level. We hope that we’ll get this same attention and support from our current and future state legislature.”
FERC initially rejected the City’s complaint. The City of Miami then appealed these claims to the federal appeals court. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) remanded the proceeding back to FERC in 2022 directing the Commission to take up four issues. The D.C. Circuit directed FERC by order to interpret section 7612 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (the Pensacola Act), determining the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with respect to area flooding, determine the responsibility of GRDA if it caused flooding in Miami and to analyze evidence the City provided in support of its complaint.
FERC concluded in the remand order that section 28 of the Federal Power Act precludes application of the Pensacola Act to the 2018 Complaint proceeding, that the Corps role in this proceeding is limited to directing flood operation, and that the Pensacola Project has increased flooding around the City of Miami. The order goes on to say that Article 5 required GRDA to acquire adequate property rights in perpetuity for all project purposes, including flood control.
Throughout this fight, the City has been represented by the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and extensive technical support has been provided by consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech. “We couldn’t be happier about this clear win for the City and its citizens,” said lead DWT lawyer Craig Gannett. “We’re a big step closer to holding GRDA accountable.”
“I grew up in a home that flooded, and I understand the impact, and it’s about time somebody stood up to GRDA,” Mayor Parker said. “We’re not done fighting!”