Mountain lions and monarch butterflies complicate the high-speed route from Bakersfield to Palmdale Information

The monarch butterfly and mountain lion are complicating the already complex Bakersfield to Palmdale portion of the California high-speed rail project.

The High Speed ​​Rail Authority was recently forced to revise environmental impact documents after both creatures became candidates for endangered species lists. The revisions must be made to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Act, which require mitigation efforts for significant environmental impacts.

HSRA first published its draft environmental statement in February 2020, but later learned that the mountain lion from southern California and the central coast had been promoted to candidate for California’s Environmental Species Act and the monarch butterfly could be considered an endangered species under federal law endangered species, but “other priorities preclude this listing.”

This meant that HSRA had to go back and revise parts of its environmental statement. Unfortunately for mountain lions and monarch butterflies, the HSRA determined that the high-speed line could have a significant impact on their populations.

However, neither the mountain lion nor monarch butterflies have been observed in the area along the railroad, and HSRA says it will take mitigation measures to limit the impact on the two populations during and after the railroad is built.

“The environmental process is set up in such a way that you have to inform everyone about the possible effects in the notification process. But just because there are potential impacts doesn’t mean you can’t build it. It just means you need to tone it down, ”said Rob Ball, associate director of the Core Council of Governments. “It’s only part of the environmental process. It’s kind of a routine process. There are a thousand effects the high-speed rail will have. “

Kyle Simerly, a public information officer for HSRA, wrote in an email that the revisions would not add a significant cost to the $ 15.7 billion project or change the schedule. He added that HSRA hopes to start construction as soon as possible, depending on when funds become available.

Without a funding commitment, the prospects for the completion of the project remain open. Last year, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, tabled a US $ 32 billion bill in Congress that aims to provide a significant portion of federal funding for the project. However, the bill was not passed and Costa recently reintroduced the bill in hopes that a new Congress will produce different results.

In the meantime, the public has the opportunity to comment on the updated Environmental Impact Statement. The full report can be found at hsr.ca.gov. They can also be requested by calling 866-300-3044 or emailing [email protected]

Comments can also be sent to the email address provided above or via the comments form on the HSR website.

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