Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 1, 2017

Contact: 

Jenny Loda, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7100 x 336, jloda@biologicaldiversity.org
Kelly Davis, Save Our Springs Alliance, (512) 477-2320 x 306, kelly@sosalliance.org

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Approval of Texas Highway Project

Project Threatens Two Rare Salamanders, Golden-cheeked Warbler 

AUSTIN, Texas— A federal district court in Texas today granted a motion by the Center for Biological Diversity and Save Our Springs Alliance to expand their existing lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval of a highway project in Austin that threatens three endangered species.

The construction of the MoPac Intersections Project across the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, in southwest Austin, risks harming the federally protected Barton Springs salamander, Austin blind salamander and golden-cheeked warbler.

“This project would do real harm to these precious salamanders, the golden-cheeked warbler and the sensitive Edwards Aquifer itself,” said Jenny Loda, a biologist and attorney with the Center who’s dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “Unchecked sprawl and transportation projects have already pushed these unique little guys toward extinction. It’s crucial to ensure that any new highway projects are not going to accelerate the threats that are quickly wiping them out.”

In response to previous efforts by the Center and Save Our Springs, the Texas Department of Transportation initiated consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service in June 2016, putting forth an inadequate assessment that concluded the project was not likely to adversely affect these protected species. One year later the Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with that baseless determination, violating the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

In making its decision to concur with the state transportation department, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the impacts of encountering caves during excavation, the broad range of likely pollutants, and additional impacts of other highway projects in the Barton Springs recharge zone. The new complaint filed today continues to challenge the state’s failure to ensure the Intersections Project will not violate the Endangered Species Act by jeopardizing the survival of the Barton Springs salamander, Austin blind salamander or golden-cheeked warbler.

“The failure by Texas officials to fully consider the impacts of this project on protected species reflects their pattern of incomplete and woefully deficient evaluations of the environmental effects of highway projects in the Barton Springs Recharge Zone,” said Kelly Davis, an attorney with Save Our Springs Alliance. “It’s frustrating to see the Fish and Wildlife Service follow suit in its decision to approve an inadequate analysis that is not supported by science for the MoPac Intersections Project.”

Central Texas’ Edwards Aquifer region provides habitat for more than 50 species of animals and plants living nowhere else in the world. Since the Edwards Aquifer also provides much of San Antonio's water supply and about 50,000 people rely on Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer for their drinking water, the cleanliness of the aquifers is a critical issue for people as well as wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Save Our Springs Alliance is an environmental nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas dedicated to protecting the Edwards Aquifer, its springs and streams, and the natural and cultural heritage of the Texas Hill Country.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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