Friday, February 7, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: Sierra Club sues to stop the Ridge Road Extension through the Serenova Preserve in Pasco County


For Immediate Release
February7, 2020                                     
Contacts:  Heidi Mehaffey, Esq., heidi@hartsell-law.com, (954) 778-1052
Tim Martin, timothymartin@suncoastsierra.org, (727) 251-9979

**PRESS RELEASE**
                                                        
SIERRA CLUB SUES TO STOP THE RIDGE ROAD EXTENSION THROUGH THE SERENOVA PRESERVE IN PASCO COUNTY

JACKSONVILLE FL – The Sierra Club filed suit on February 6 to challenge the permit recently given by the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to Pasco County for the Ridge Road Extension.  The suit was brought under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act.  The suit is the next step in a twenty-year fight to protect the Serenova Preserve.

The Sierra Club also filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or
Preliminary Injunction in order to stay the Section 404 Permit that has recently allowed construction to begin.

Heidi Mehaffey, Esq., the attorney representing the Sierra Club, stated:  “The permit was approved in violation of a number of federal statutes and regulations, all extant to prevent this kind of environmental damage.  ACOE failed to adequately look at direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the environment contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act and  neglected to choose the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) under the Clean Water Act, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relied on outdated surveys, 7 years outdated to be exact, for determining the impact on endangered and threatened species and wetland habitats when there was no effort to collect reliable and present day data in complete contradiction to the spirit of these environmental laws.  We also filed an emergency motion for an injunction to halt construction at the site, which began last week – we have eye-witness reports that they are removing gopher tortoises as we speak.”

Tim Martin, Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair stated:  After the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) permit decision was announced on the Friday before Christmas, Save Our Serenova Coalition activists worked day and night over the holiday season to fight the permit. We are dedicating significant resources to stopping the destruction of the Serenova Preserve. Contrary to what county officials are claiming, there will not be traffic through the Serenova in nine months. There should never be traffic inside a nature preserve."

Conservation Biologist Reed F. Noss, Ph. D., whose review of the decisional documents lead to an expert report supporting the Sierra Club’s arguments that the project will be environmentally detrimental said:  I find the Corps’ decision to issue the permit indefensible. This project, if implemented, will cause severe impacts and irreparable harm to one of the most biologically significant natural areas in west-central Florida. It would likely preclude regional recovery, and perhaps cause regional extinction, of some species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, as well as leading to the decline of other native species (many of them already rare) and compromising the ecological functions of the wetland and upland ecosystems of the Serenova Tract.

Martin added, The Serenova case has likely already influenced national policy.  In justifying their rationale for streamlining the Army Corps' permitting process, the Trump administration recently cited that some roads are taking over ten years to permit. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, wrote an open letter to Trump calling for him to intervene in the Serenova case, which may be the longest running permitting application in history, thanks to the local activists who have worked diligently for twenty years to protect this precious land.”  


Background:



Facebook:   Save Our Serenova 

Related event:  Sunday, February 9, 2020:  Gopher tortoise vigil

Hashtag:  #SaveSerenova
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