May 20, 2004
COURT HALTS CONSTRUCTION IN BALD EAGLE HABITAT
Conservation Groups Win Preliminary Injunction under the Endangered Species Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Roman or Peter Tennyson, Friends of Fawnskin, (714) 668-6237
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (909) 659-6053 x.302 or (909) 961-7972 (cell)
Everett DeLano, Law Offices of Everett L. DeLano III, (760) 510-1562
Today the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted conservation groups’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop construction at the Marina Point Project on Big Bear Lake in Fawnskin, California. The Center for Biological Diversity (“Center”) and the Friends of Fawnskin (“FOF”) filed the suit in April for violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) and federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”). The Marina Point project site is prime habitat for the bald eagle, listed as threatened under the federal ESA and as endangered under the California ESA.
“Today’s decision puts a halt to blatant violations of federal law with grave consequences to our national bird, the bald eagle,” said Everett DeLano, lead attorney for the conservation organizations. “We are extremely pleased that today’s injunction will prevent any further harm to the environment and the bald eagle until this case is resolved.”
In a 21 page Order issued today, the District Court ruled that the Marina Point project is likely to violate the ESA by harming and harassing the bald eagle. The judge ordered that all construction activities on the site be stopped until the case is resolved, with the exception of the removal of dead trees and any additional remedial measures that may be ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Army Corps”) to protect Big Bear Lake.
In the lawsuit, the groups claim that developers have not obtained the permits that are required under the ESA and CWA before they begin construction. The Army Corps issued a Cease and Desist Order in July, 2003, and an Initial Corrective Order in October, 2003 to the developers for illegal dredging and grading last summer. Despite that Order, the groups say, the developers once again commenced construction in April, 2004, without getting any new permits. The Center and FOF filed this lawsuit in April, 2004, and received a Temporary Restraining Order against construction on the site on April 16, 2004.
The small town of Fawnskin lies on the largely undeveloped and idyllic north shore of Big Bear Lake, an area known as a peaceful refuge for all of its human and animal residents and visitors. The Marina Point project site is located on the lakeshore at the mouth of Grout Bay, a sheltered enclave of the lake known for its outstanding wildlife value. Development proposed at Marina Point includes the construction of 133 condominiums, extensive dredging and deepening of Big Bear Lake to construct a marina for approximately 175 boats, tennis courts, a clubhouse, and other recreational development.
“It is unfortunate that nothing short of litigation would convince these developers to follow the law and apply for the required permits,” said Peter Tennyson, of the FOF, “We hope this case sends a message that we will not allow the environment and our community to be harmed by developers who ignore local, state, and federal law.”
Bald eagles winter at Big Bear Lake from approximately mid November to mid April each year. As explosive urban growth over the past two decades has eliminated most bald eagle habitat on the south shore of Big Bear Lake, the number of wintering eagles has decreased and those that do return have increasingly congregated in the Grout Bay area.
“Because of all the development in the area, the Marina Point site is one of the last bald eagle habitats left in Big Bear. Its development could very likely lead to the complete disappearance of bald eagles from the area,” said Kassie Siegel, as staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is essential that development proceed only after all required environmental review and permitting has taken place.”
Earlier this year, the Center and FOFfiled a lawsuit in state court challenging the developers’ reliance on long-expired County permits. The groups also sued San Bernardino County and the Department of Fish and Gamein the state case, claiming that they failed to require the proper environmental review and permitting. That case, filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and the California Unfair Competition Law, is currently pending in San Bernardino County Superior Court.
For a copy of today’s decision or photos of the project site or the bald eagle, please contact Kassie Siegel at (909) 659-6053 x.302.