2014 | News

Chevy Chase Residents Threaten To Sue MoCo Over Purple Line

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A few months after filing suit against the federal government over the Purple Line, a group of Chevy Chase residents is threatening to do the same to Montgomery County.

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, Chevy Chase resident, attorney and environmental advocate John Fitzgerald and Chevy Chase resident Dedun Ingram on Monday filed a notice of intent to sue the county over what it says is a violation of the state’s environmental law.

At issue again is the fate of small shrimp-like creatures called amphipods that Fitzgerald and the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail claim could live in seeps, springs and wetland areas that would be “greatly degraded or destroyed,” by construction, stormwater and other effects of the Purple Line light rail project.

In the notice of intent letter sent to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, attorney David Brown cites two species of the amphipod that are classified as endangered by the state of Maryland and another listed as endangered by the federal government.

The group argues that Montgomery County has an “enhanced responsibility” to protect the amphipods because of the Maryland Nongame and Endagered Species Conservation Act.

The Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail that will run through Chevy Chase, is a state project. But Montgomery County will contribute about $100 million to build a new Capital Crescent Trail alongside the light rail, much of which is slated to be built on the existing trail right of way.

“As the very first step in that mandatory process, the County must, before permitting anyone proceed with any habitat destruction or degradation in furtherance of the Project, carefully evaluate the available scientific information that my clients have presented here to show that their concern about these endangered species is real and immediate,” Brown wrote.
Meagan Racey, spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said over the summer that the federal agencies and the Maryland Transit Administration met with environmentalists and some Chevy Chase residents on Aug. 11.
The Fish and Wildlife Service — one of the agencies being sued in the federal lawsuit — reviewed its findings from last year in light of the new information from the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, which hired American University biologist Dr. David Culver to survey for amphipods this spring near the proposed Purple Line route.
But Racey said officials found no need to revaluate protections for the amphipods because there is no evidence that amphipods exist in the seeps near the Purple Line route.
“We also found from [Dr. Culver] that under nearly ideal conditions he didn’t find these species at all,” Racey said.
The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is planning additional work by Culver this fall and next spring, including testing to detect the shed DNA from the amphipods that it said will be ready by late summer 2015.

To pay for the DNA testing, the group will go before the Town of Chevy Chase on Wednesday for a $25,388 grant.

Wikimedia Commons photo via Michal Manas