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Jean Klock Park case back in front of federal appeals court

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
A view of Jean Klock Park where Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc. has built part of a new Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

A federal appeals court judge heard arguments Tuesday in a case against the city of Benton Harbor and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The dispute is over a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that’s already operating in Benton Harbor. Three of the golf course's holes were built on public Jean Klock Park along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The original case looked at whether or not federal environmental rules were violated when the golf course was built. A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled in favor of the development. But a group of citizens appealed the case.

"The Federal Appellees’ shallow, one-dimensional argument that the golf course is built, so this lawsuit should go away, can be safely ignored. There are many reversible aspects of the Harbor Shores project…"

An attorney with The Department of Justice argues nothing can be done since the golf course is already built.

“Here, the 3.31 acres of wetlands in question are filled, the construction of the golf course is complete, and the mitigation required by the fill permit is complete. Therefore, it is likely that no alternative would be practicable due to cost or logistics in light of the overall project purpose. Any such alternative would require the destruction and replacement of the golf course, the fill to be removed, and the course and possibly other mitigation parcels to be constructed elsewhere. A remand to the Corps for consideration of such an alternative would be an empty exercise and could provide no meaningful relief to (the group of citizens). Perhaps a remand “would serve the plaintiff?s interest in delaying the [project], but no other interest, for it is plain what those findings must be.”

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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