A rare shrimp-like creature believed to exist in spring water in Rock Creek Park that has been a candidate for federal protection since 2010 is moving a step closer to being listed as an endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday it’s proposing endangered status for the Kenk’s amphipod, which lives in six sites in Washington, D.C., and Maryland as well as four sites discovered earlier this year at the Army’s Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
The amphipod, which is about 5 millimeters in length, has been found in natural spring habitats at two sites in Montgomery County—the Coquelin Run Spring near Chevy Chase and later at Burnt Mill Spring #6 in Silver Spring during searches from 2003 to 2004, according to the federal wildlife agency.
The amphipod has been considered for federal protection in the past, but this move is an attempt by the agency to have it formally recognized as endangered. The amphipod is one of two species that were featured as part of an original version of an ongoing Purple Line Lawsuit brought by Chevy Chase residents that claimed building the 16.2-mile light-rail line through Rock Creek Park would harm the habitats of the endangered Hay’s Spring Amphipod and the Kenk’s.
The attorneys for plaintiffs in that lawsuit—John Fitzgerald, Christine Real de Azua and The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail—later revised the complaint to focus on recent problems plaguing the Metro system after a team of researchers funded in part by the Town of Chevy Chase were unable to find evidence of the amphipods along the Purple Line route.
Meagan Racey, a spokeswoman for the wildlife service, said Thursday adding the Kenk’s amphipod to the endangered species list would not impact construction of the Purple Line. She said the agency previously examined whether the amphipod or its habitat would be negatively affected by the light-rail project when it conducted its environmental assessment in 2014 and was unable to find any evidence. The creatures are found in “forested areas with steep slopes, adjacent to streams,” according to the wildlife service.
Racey said biologists determined that stormwater runoff from the Purple Line’s construction would not flow into the amphipods’ likely habitats due to an elevation difference—the habitats are at higher elevations.
The wildlife service proposed the endangered status because the amphipod is threatened by poor water quality. The amphipods are sensitive to water quality and can only exist in springs not affected by stormwater, toxic spills, sewer leaks or other pollution, according to the agency.
The Kenk’s Amphipod is already protected by the state. Now that it’s proposed for federal endangered status, the agency will begin a 60-day review process in which it will take public feedback, which will likely include input from residents as well as peer reviews from biologists, Racey said.
Once the review period ends, the agency will decide whether federal protection is warranted. Animals classified as endangered by the agency are protected from hunting. Federal law also requires protecting the species’ habitat and breeding grounds.