[Photo of Capital Crescent Trail by Daniel Lobo]
It's official: the battle over the Purple Line has taken a legal turn. Last night the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Sustainable Economy and Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail filed a suit against the U.S. Transportation Department in District Court just like they had threatened to do a month ago. The genesis for the suit: that the current route for the trail would cause harm for the endangered Hay's Spring amphipod and the Kenk's amphipod which could receive that endangered designation in the near future. Turns out there are a lot of environmentalists in Montgomery County.
The "Save the Shrimp-like Creature" defense actually dates back to an environmental impact study from December that caused the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to analyze whether the sixteen-mile Maryland light rail project would indeed cause harm to these tiny creatures. They determined in January that the project would not have any effect on the habitats where the amphipods live. They maintained the same conviction after conducting additional analysis triggered by those pesky notices of intent to sue. Specifically, Meagan Racey told Curbed that after extensively surveying the springs near the project that there were not any signs of the Hay's Spring amphipod. They also found that one nearby spring, Coquelin Run, that is home to the Kenk's amphipod but that the water that feeds that spring is still isolated from the effects of the Purple Line.
That said, the studies of the springs in the Rock Creek watershed are not over. One of the groups that brought about the suit has called on an expert, Dr. Dan Culver to study nine other sites where the amphipods might live. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stated that should he provide new information, that they'd take it into account. Additionally, they have at least two conservation measures for the species in progress and a third for which they're seeking a grant. Who knew that something a few millimeters long would have such an effect on a $2.4 billion transportation project.
· Purple Line Suit Seeks to Protect Rare Creatures [NBC4]
· Protection of Purple Line's Shrimpy Nemesis May Slow Progress [CDC]
· All Purple Line Coverage [CDC]