Is the shrimplike Hay’s Spring Amphipod the New Snail Darter for the Proposed Purple Line in Maryland?

December 2nd, 2013

Perhaps the most infamous endangered species in the world of the Supreme Court is the snail darter. This small endangered fish, located in the Little Tennessee River,  held up the construction of the Tellico Dam. Construing the ESA strictly, in TVA v. Hill, the Supreme Court upheld the injunction against the construction of the Dam.

Well there’s a new endangered species in town, that could hold up construction right in the Supreme Court’s backyard. The Washington Post reports that the endangered Hay’s Spring amphipod may halt a proposed Purple Line commuter rail in Maryland:

A rare shrimplike creature found in Rock Creek Park — believed to be its only location in the world — could end up taking center stage in a fight against a proposed light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.

The tiny Hay’s Spring amphipod has been listed as a federally protected endangered species since 1982 and has been spotted in Rock Creek Park in the District, downstream of where Purple Line trains would cross the park in Montgomery County.

Purple Line trains would cross Rock Creek Park on a new bridge that would replace a trestle east of Jones Mill Road. Trains would follow the four-mile, wooded Georgetown Branch Trail that would be rebuilt between Bethesda and Silver Spring.


The recently released final study of a Purple Line’s environmental impact, some activists say, erred in omitting the colorless crustacean as an endangered species that must be avoided or protected.

John M. Fitzgerald, a Chevy Chase resident and lawyer, said he and other environmentalists are contemplating a lawsuit to require the Maryland Transit Administration to consider a light-rail line’s impact on the animal. The little-known crustacean is significant because it signals good water quality, he said.

Would it be possible to work around these tiny treif?

If an endangered species were found in the Purple Line’s impact area, Kay said, it would require “pretty significant mitigation” to build the transitway. …

But he said he is concerned Purple Line opponents will use an endangered species lawsuit to delay the project.

“I find it hard to believe,” Phyillaier said, “that opponents are suddenly concerned about this very obscure species.”

The snail darter and the Hay’s Spring Amphipod should hang out sometime.