By: Friends of the Wild Whoopers
Friends of Lydia Ann Channel (“FLAC”), a non-profit conservation group in Texas has filed a federal lawsuit against several officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE) for violations of several federal laws including the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).
FLAC’s legal Complaint claims that USACE’s rushed authorization of the construction and operation of this mile and a half long industrial barge facility within the Lydia Ann Channel. Barges using the channel will be accommodating hazardous materials in the middle of one of the most ecologically and recreationally significant waterways along the Texas gulf coast. The barge facility may threaten known endangered species habitat, interfere with and displaces public recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, hunting, boating, and birding, and constitutes a threat to both navigation and to public health and safety.
The Lydia Ann Channel and the affected shoreline of San Jose Island are located within Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, directly adjacent to the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. These two areas are home to or immediately adjacent to known habitat for at least eight federally-listed endangered species: whooping crane, piping plover, rufa red knot, Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle, green sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle and loggerhead sea turtle.
FLAC’s legal Complaint
According to FLAC’s legal Complaint, USACE’s authorization of this facility, and the resulting activities and work associated with its operation are substantial and pose a direct threat of harm, injury and death to individual whooping cranes and other endangered species in direct violation of Section 9 of the ESA.
The Lydia Ann Channel and San Jose Island have been used by the public for decades for recreational purposes, including fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, crabbing and wildlife photography and observation.
Whooping Crane Flock affected
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane flock is the only natural wild flock of whooping cranes remaining in the world. The current population of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock is currently estimated to be only 310 individuals. This flock winters in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas in Aransas County, Texas, including San Jose Island, which is immediately adjacent to the barge facility and the petrochemicals and hazardous materials stored there. Whooping cranes have been documented in the vicinity of San Jose Island for the last five years.
The Complaint claims that USACE was clearly put on notice by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that there were federally listed sea turtles in the proposed project area. In addition, even the most basic review of available scientific information would have made it obvious to the USACE that other federally-listed species, specifically whooping cranes, piping plover, and rufa red knot were also in the action area of the proposed project.
FLAC is asking the Federal Court to declare the construction and operation of LAC Moorings’ barge facility unlawful and set aside the action that USACE in authorizing. A map of the project can be found by clicking here.
FOTWW voices their concern
Friends of the Wild Whoopers, a conservation group, commented that: “It seems that a “guerilla war” has been declared on the natural resources of the Texas coast. The Lydia Ann Channel project is just one of several projects and/or government regulatory decisions made during the past several years that are seriously damaging to the natural environment. Such continual chipping away at coastal resources will eventually upset the natural balance so long enjoyed by millions of citizens.
***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.