SACRAMENTO, CA - It's the state versus the federal government with the California Department of Fish and Game filing a lawsuit Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its national policy concerning trees and vegetation on levees.
In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the Corps of Engineers adopted the policy to help protect the integrity of levees. However, the lawsuit charges the policy ignores the federal Endangered Species Act and would require the removal of virtually all trees and shrubs on federal levees.
In a news release announcing the filing of the lawsuit, fish and game said that approximately 1,600 miles of federal project levees along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers would likely be affected.
In addition to the loss of wildlife habitat, fish and game maintains trees and other vegetation on the levees help reduce damage from flooding.
Members of local conservation groups agree.
"The very trees they're destroying and taking out are the ones Californians have been planting for years to stabilize our rivers and keep them in their banks," said botanist Glen Holstein with the California Native Plant Society.
A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers said the Corps could not comment on current litigation. However, he did say the Corps is trying to work with other flood management agencies.