By Gary Lloyd
The Southern Environmental Law Center today filed a new federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, challenging a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Northern Beltline’s first phase of construction.
According to the SELC, the lawsuit addresses the Corps of Engineers’ failure to follow requirements of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The SELC called the first phase, a segment between Highway 75 and Highway 79, “improper segmentation.”
“Due to this improper segmentation, the full extent of the project’s impacts to wetlands and waterways, which supply area drinking water, is unknown,” a press release states. “The Corps’ unlawful decision to segment this large-scale project for review and analysis could set a dangerous precedent for future Alabama transportation projects.”
Nelson Brooke, of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said the beltline will permanently alter Black Warrior River and Cahaba River tributaries in 67 places.
“ALDOT and FHWA have not adequately studied impacts to water resources and wildlife along the entire chosen route, which is the longest and most environmentally destructive of the seven routes considered,” he said.
The Northern Beltline will draw limited federal transportation dollars away from dozens of worthy transportation projects necessary for safety and congestion relief in Birmingham and throughout the state, according to the SELC.
“Proper analysis required by law would show that this project’s significant environmental impacts are not justified by its costs,” said Sarah Stokes, one of the Southern Environmental Law Center attorneys on the case.
This lawsuit and an ongoing 2011 lawsuit against ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration highlight the ongoing failure of responsible agencies to provide necessary analysis of alternative transportation investments as required by law, and to justify the environmental impacts and tremendous economic cost of the beltline, an SELC press release states.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.