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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cross-Base Highway lawsuit put on hold

Controversial project will face challenge, if funding secured

This week, US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle signed an agreement worked out by parties in a lawsuit challenging Pierce County’s proposed Cross-Base Highway (SR-704). Tahoma Audubon Society, Conservation Northwest, Woodbrook Hunt Club, and the American Lake Gardens Equestrian Alliance filed the lawsuit challenging the inadequate environmental review of the proposed highway in early August 2010. The highway if built would develop one of the region's largest remaining tracts of oak-woodland prairie remaining in Washington State.

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Oct 21, 2010

SEATTLE, WA – This week, US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle signed an agreement worked out by parties in a lawsuit challenging Pierce County’s proposed Cross-Base Highway (SR-704). Tahoma Audubon Society, Conservation Northwest, Woodbrook Hunt Club, and the American Lake Gardens Equestrian Alliance filed the lawsuit challenging the inadequate environmental review of the proposed highway in early August 2010.

Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, the groups worked with Federal Highways Administration, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Pierce County to finalize an agreement, which was then authorized by the court.

The “Motion to Stay” states, “Because of the lack of funding for this project, the parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of all parties and the Court to stay this matter until further notice. If the project is not ultimately funded, the time and resources for litigation regarding environmental review of the project would have been wasted. There is no point in the Court or the parties devoting resources to this case because it is uncertain when or if the project will be funded.”  

“If any federal, state, or local funding materializes for this project, we’ll head back to court to protect this rare remnant prairie and prairie wildlife,” said Jen Watkins of Conservation Northwest.

The lawsuit was filed to protect one of the region's largest remaining tracts of oak-woodland prairie remaining in Washington State. The Puget Sound prairies once covered more than 150,000 acres, but today only about 3% remains. The area is considered by the County’s Biodiversity Network Assessment to be one of the "most biologically and ecologically rich areas remaining in the lower elevations of Pierce County,” containing old-growth Oregon white oak, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine interspersed among prairie and wetlands. The prairie provides essential habitat for 19 plants and animals facing extinction, including streaked horned lark, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, western gray squirrel, Mazama pocket gopher, and water howellia.

"The road proponents failed to take into account the disastrous and irreversible environmental impacts in its rush to build the Cross-Base Highway," said Bryan Flint, executive director of Tahoma Audubon Society, "This four lane highway rips through pristine and endangered habitat." Rather than consider alternative routes, the Federal Highway Administration, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Pierce County proposed a brand new six-mile-long, four-lane Cross-Base Highway across rare prairie habitat on Joint Base Lewis-McChord at a cost likely to approach half a billion dollars.

The prairie is also key to the operations of the historic Woodbrook Hunt Club. "Our members have been riding in this area for nearly 100 years; we are the oldest hunt club west of the Mississippi,” said Jennifer Hansen, member of the Woodbrook Hunt Club. "This road is unnecessary, too expensive, and would harm the economic and historical value of the hunt club and surrounding equestrian businesses.”

The organizations filing the suit are represented by David Bricklin of Bricklin & Newman, LLP, and Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.

Further information:
PDF file of the Motion for Stay
Cross Base Highway Opposition Background Information
SR 704 Cross-Base Highway Project Page

 

 

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