Case 46

Cobble Hill Association v. Adams, 470 F. Supp. 1077 (E.D.N.Y. 1979).

Citizens' associations brought suit to enjoin a highway repair project funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) until FHWA complied with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other environmental laws. The project did not entail extensions, additions, or changes to the highway but involved temporary detours that would pass through the surrounding community. Although the detours did not go through a historic district, plaintiffs alleged that the repair project would cause indirect or secondary harm to nearby historic districts.

The State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) had determined that the project would have no effect on the historic districts. Nevertheless, FHWA had attempted to comply with the regulations of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation implementing Section 106 of NHPA by requesting a determination of no effect from the SHPO. Plaintiffs asserted that FHWA had violated NHPA and NEPA. The court denied plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order. In considering plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, the court found first that when there has been a determination of no effect under NHPA, judicial review is based solely on the administrative record that the agency has an affirmative obligation to develop. 470 F. Supp. at 1083.

Second, the court upheld FHWA's negative declaration under NEPA, stating that while the effects of the proposed repair of the existing highway were significant, they were not of a character to warrant an environmental impact statement, since they would not result in any long-term changes to the environment. Any environmental effects would be incidental to the repairs and temporary. Id. at 1086. Moreover, the effects on the structural stability of buildings in the area adjacent to the highway repair project did not warrant consideration under NEPA, although a different conclusion might be reached under NHPA. Id. at 1088.

Finally, the court noted that a Federal agency's obligations under NHPA and the Council's regulations are independent from the agency's responsibilities under NEPA. Id. at 1089. Although defendant's attempts to comply with NHPA may have been faulty, plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction because NHPA does not apply to projects with only temporary effects resulting from maintenance and repair programs. Id. at 1090. The court perceived the threat to the historic districts to be indirect and insubstantial and upheld FHWA's determination of no effect. Id. at 1091.

The court dismissed the complaint.

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