The impact of a major road construction project on
native wildlife may get another look after all.
Attorneys representing a coalition of environmentalists say they received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration and Caltrans last month announcing a reevaluation of the impact of freeway widening project.
The agencies aim to assess whether new information about the impacts to the birds during last year’s nesting season reaches the threshold to trigger a detailed supplemental environmental impact statement about the highway project impacts at the bridges, according to spokeswoman for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
A supplemental environmental impact statement (“SEIS”) would analyze the impacts to the birds specifically and determine whether there were alternatives available that would minimize or avoid future harms, the group says.
The ALDF represents Native Songbird Care & Conservation, Veronica Bowers, Madrone Audubon Society, Marin Audubon Society, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and Center for Biological Diversity.
They say the highway widening and bridge demolition projects at the Petaluma River and Lakeville Overpass bridges imperil protected birds.
"(The) impact on the birds had never been considered in the first environmental analysis in preparation of the bridge work," ALDF spokeswoman Megan Backus said in a prepared statement.
The ALDF on Aug. 16 issued a statement advocating for a review that includes observations and expert analysis, the recommendations of Caltrans contractors as well as state and federal wildlife agencies that netting imperiling the lives of the birds be removed, and a list of alternatives for continuing the project without causing harm to the federally- and state-protected birds.
"The agencies have not said when they will make a decision about whether the scores of killed or injured birds is 'significant' enough to perform a supplemental environmental review," Backus said, noting that the issue is of imminent concern with nesting season starting in February.
"(The) plaintiffs urge that because of the mass deaths, the agencies should bypass the make-work 'reevaluation' process and start on an SEIS right away, or if not right away, by this fall."