Department of Fish and Game Set to Challenge National Levee Policy

On February 7, 2012, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the United States Army Corps of Engineers over its national levee vegetation removal policy.  This notice follows a United States District Court's recent refusal to allow the Department of Fish and Game to intervene in a similar lawsuit brought by several environmental organizations.  That case is entitled Friends of the River, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Case No. 2:11-cv-01650 (E.D. Cal.).  

The Corps' policy calls for a vegetation free zone along levees that includes a 15-foot setback for trees and shrubs.  According to the press release by DFG, the policy is in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the federal Administrative Procedure Act, because it "fails to account for regional variations among levees" and will negatively impact riparian habitat that "is essential for several endangered species including Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, riparian brush rabbit, Western yellow-billed cuckoo and Swainson's hawk."  The press release also states that compliance with the policy may "cost up to $7.5 billion and divert funds from more significant levee deficiencies like seepage and erosion."

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