Friday, August 29, 2014

Feds review Purple Line foes' shrimp woes

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Two Chevy Chase, Md., residents and the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, a citizen's group, have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the proposed Purple Line light rail transit project due to claims of threatening two species of small invertebrates in nearby streams, despite assurances from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that such impact is extremely unlikely.

The move is the latest attack by Chevy Chase sources against the Purple Line, slowly moving toward construction. The Purple Line will link Bethesda, Md. (and Chevy Chase), in Montgomery County, with New Carrollton, Md. In Prince George’s County, also connecting at four points with Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail system, and with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The suit says two species of amphipods, resembling shrump, would suffer irreparable harm should LRT be built. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives met with the plaintiffs on Aug. 11, 2014, but held to its earlier findings that the creatures were not threatened by LRT.

Moreover, Fish and Wildlife said LRT's construction would occur almost entirely where land already was zoned for commercial use, indirectly raising questions over why no other development activity has been challenged before.

Meagan Racey, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that despite new data offered by an American University biologist hired by LRT opponents to identify a species threat, there is no evidence that the amphipods exist in seeps (small springs) near the Purple Line route. "We also found from [Dr. Culver] that under nearly ideal conditions he didn't find these species at all," Racey said.

In a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Fish and Wildlife Service said “there are no known or suspected sites for the Hay’s Spring amphipod within the immediate vicinity of the Purple Line project.” And while one species is identified roughly a quarter-mile away from the Purple Line route, Fish and Wildlife notes that site is on a hillside about 40 feet above any groundwater that would be polluted as a result of the light rail, making the threat to that species highly unlikely.

FTA issued a Record of Decision in favor of the Purple Line last March.

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