Public Money for Private Land? | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Public Money for Private Land?

WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) - The federal government is using public money - and sand - to shore up dunes on private property next to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, two environmental groups say. The 10,000-acre wetlands is a key sanctuary for 267 species of migratory and wading birds, 36 species of mammals and 35 species of reptiles.

The Delaware Audubon Society and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility say the Fish and Wildlife Service plan will hurt endangered species and violate environmental laws.

The plan, completed without a proper environmental impact statement, involves scraping away sand and sediment from "washover" areas to fill dunes and inlets on private property, according to the complaint.

Hurricanes, Nor'easters and storm surges are eroding sand dunes in the refuge, but rather than implement a comprehensive conservation plan, Fish and Wildlife and the Secretary of the Interior plan only "ad hoc" measures, the groups say.

Uncle Sam also violated the law by agreeing to let the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control operate two artificial freshwater pools, one next to a dune system, for at least 10 years without determining whether this is compatible with improving the refuge, the complaint states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not consult with other agencies about the endangered species, nor did it consider an alternative to elevate an access road, and its stuff of costs was inadequate, the environmentalists say.

The groups want Fish and Wildlife to provide an analysis of impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act and a compatibility determination under the Refuge System Improvement Act. They are represented by Mary Jacobson with the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center.

Prime Hook was established as a refuge in 1963. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest in the refuge on the west shore of Delaware Bay, 22 miles southeast of Dover.

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