This is breaking news, and we are still absorbing the just-received document, but today the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers answered the complaint we filed in federal court to protect the dike road trees.

The Corps of Engineers’ Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint (pdf) is a detailed and formalistic response which will be used primarily to frame the case as it moves to the next phase of the litigation. Indeed, the Corps acknowledges up front that “Defendants admit that the Corps did not complete a NEPA analysis of the Engineer Technical Letter (“ETL”) or the Final Periodic Inspection Report for the Coeur d’Alene Flood Control Project, but aver that no NEPA analysis was required.”  The need for NEPA is something with which we sharply disagree, and on which a judge is likely going to need to decide.

Still, in their answer, the Corps acknowledges the context of our case, stating, “Defendants admit that woody vegetation exists on and near the Coeur d’Alene Flood Control Project. Defendants admit that trees may possess recreational and aesthetic values, among other values.” But they decline to go much further than that. The Corps states  “Defendants admit that the primary purpose for which the Coeur d’Alene Flood Control Project was authorized was to operate as a flood risk reduction structure. Defendants have no knowledge of the truth of the allegation that Coeur d’Alene Flood Control Project structure now serves additional purposes in the community other than the purposes for which it was  legislatively authorized and deny it on that basis. Defendants admit that woody riparian vegetation serves important values of riparian wildlife habitat.”

Tellingly, the Corps admits rather matter-of-factly, “Defendants admit that trees on levees may possess natural resources habitat, recreational, and aesthetic values, among other values, and that removal of trees from levees has both advantageous and adverse effects.”  Well, yes. We’re in agreement on that.

In any event, we’ll know a bit more about what it all means when our attorneys get a chance to decode the rest of the legalese.