City Desk

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Says Purple Line Will Not Threaten Endangered Species

Screenshot 2014-08-27 at 2.35.25 PM

The U.S. Fish and Widlife Service is sticking with its research and saying a proposed Purple Line—a light rail train line that would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton—will not have an impact on any endangered or threatened species, despite a lawsuit filed this week that claims otherwise.

Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and two Maryland residents filed suit in federal court Tuesday to block the Purple Line, claiming the $2.4 billion line would harm two endangered shrimp-like species: The Hay's Spring amphipod and Kenk's amphipod. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was lodged against the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Interior, and the Federal Transit Administration. The plaintiffs want the government to reroute part of the line because construction of the Purple Line, the suit alleges, could hurt the Rock Creek watershed where the two species live.

The project cleared the federal environmental review process in March. The suit says this process was rushed and incomplete.

But the Fish and Wildlife agency still says the project would have no effect on any endangered or threatened species, Meagan Racey, a spokeswoman for the USFWS,  writes in an email to City Desk. Their habitat, the agency, is far away from the construction.

In January 2014, we found that this purple line project would have no effect on endangered, threatened or candidate species, including the endangered Hay's spring amphipod and the Kenk's amphipod, a species that is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Sustainable Economy and others provided more information in a 'notice of intent' to sue earlier this summer and in a meeting with us. We recently thoroughly re-evaluated our initial determination in light of that information, and we have reaffirmed our previous findings that, based on the best available science, the project will have no effect on these two amphipods.

Construction of the project is slated to start in 2015 and the line is expected to open in 2020.

Read the suit below, and below that, read a letter the USFWS wrote to the FTA explaining why the project poses no threat to the species.

Map via Maryland Transit Authority

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  • John Z Wetmore

    What else have the plaintiffs done to protect the Rock Creek watershed, other than sue to block a transit line? Are they fighting to ban chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the adjacent communities? Are they working to ban road widening throughout the watershed to reduce storm water surges? Are they saying that the existing unpaved ped/bike trail should never be paved? Do they care about Rock Creek beyond just blocking the transit line?