A federal lawsuit filed by the Savannah Riverkeepers and the owners of Jones Creek Golf Club is progressing with a judge’s rulings about expert testimony.
The environmental group and Jones Creek Investors filed suit in October 2011 against numerous entities, contending the club’s Willow Lake and waterways downstream have been harmed by excessive sedimentation.
The only defendants left in the case are Columbia County and CSX Transportation. They have denied the accusations and raised numerous objections to several of the plaintiffs’ experts.
In a ruling issued Dec. 23, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Brian Epps ruled for some objections and against others in a 56-page opinion that cites the labyrinth of federal and state laws and regulations governing the safety of water.
The owners of the Evans golf club contend excess sedimentation is ruining Willow Lake, the course’s sole source for water. They blame Columbia County for not enforcing the rules for erosion control.
CSX is accused of failing to adequately maintain and replace a culvert, which they say caused the sides of a stream bank to fail.
Epps ruled that parts of the expert opinions expressed by a hydrologist, civil engineer and biologist should be stricken. Each of them still might give expert opinion on the harm of excessive sedimentation, and in some cases what caused the problem.
On Monday, each party filed a response to Epps’ ruling, and Columbia County filed objections.
Epps’ ruling will assist Chief Judge Lisa G. Wood, who is assigned to preside over the case. If requested by either party, Wood would decide whether the magistrate was correct in his decisions about the expert testimony.
The lawsuit is expected to reach the crucial stage of summary judgment soon. If summary judgment is granted, the issue cannot be litigated further, unless overruled by a higher court.