Purple Line Booster Blasts Endangered Amphipod Claims

Purple Line Booster Blasts Endangered Amphipod Claims

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Purple Line advocate and Bethesda author Ben Ross on Wednesday blasted an effort to protect the shrimp-like species that could live near the path of the planned 16-mile light rail.

In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ross said the “endangered status of this species is being cynically misused” by groups and individuals in the Town of Chevy Chase opposed to the Purple Line.

He also pointed out that Dr. David Culver, the American University biologist hired by the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, has yet to find any of the amphipod species in Purple Line-adjacent areas.

Ross wrote the letter in response to the Center for Biological Diversity, a major environmental group that late last month filed a legal petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for the Hay’s spring amphipod, the shrimp-like critter just 5-10 millimeters in length that is colorless, blind and lives most of its life underground.

In the letter, Ross wrote that “granting credence to this argument would set a dangerous precedent and undermine the entire endangered species program. If any not-in-my-backyard group that has enough money to pay for an endangered species survey can obstruct a construction project, even after the survey results are negative, legislative action to weaken the law would be likely.”

Ross, author of the recently released book “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism,” is a longtime Action Committee for Transit member and longtime foe of the Town of Chevy Chase. The Town, which Ross referred to in the letter as “a 1200-house enclave that adjoins the light rail right-of-way,” opposes the Purple Line.

Ross argues that Culver’s own writings on the preferred habitats of the Hay’s spring amphipod prove that the endangered species could live in many other places than the Rock Creek section of Chevy Chase.

He also attacks the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition for stating that the amphipod “is known to exist” in Montgomery County, despite Culver’s studies in April turning up none of the species.

Culver has maintained that the species is likely to live in Purple Line-affected areas and is expected to resume his search for the critters in the fall.

Ross went on to write that if the Town of Chevy Chase was genuinely concerned about the amphipods, it would have enacted fertilizer restrictions:

Unfortunately, small groups of wealthy neighbors who don’t want the light rail line nearby have managed to hold this project up for 25 years. Their latest tactic is an attempt to It is supported by numerous other fabricate an endangered species issue. Regrettably, the Center for Biological Diversity hasallowed itself to be associated with this effort. The town has further demonstrated its lack of interest in protection of endangered amphipods by taking no action to control the use of lawn fertilizers by its residents. As discussed above, fertilizers are a far greater threat to these species than construction. Purple Line.

The Maryland Transit Administration hopes to select a private concessionaire to help design, build and operate the Purple Line early next year and start construction on the $2.37 billion project late next year.
PDF: Ben Ross Letter To FWS
Wikimedia Commons photo via Michal Manas

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