EHL submitted scientific information to state and federal agencies in order to help prevent the extinction of the highly endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR).

The SBKR population on Lytle and Cajon Creeks is the only one of the three remaining populations that is supported by the natural hydrologic regime of flooding and renewal. The animal depends on this flooding for long-term survival. But not respecting environmental constraints, the City of Rialto approved 8,407 homes as well as commercial development in this hazardous location at the base of the notoriously unstable San Gabriel Mountains. Seven miles of revetments are supposed to protect human residents from flooding, debris flows, earthquake and liquefaction. The mal-sited development would wipe out hundreds of acres of alluvial fan sage scrub habitat absolutely needed by the SBKR.

After exhausting litigation under CEQA, EHL has focused on the many federal and state permits needed by the project, including permits from the Army Corps, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Environmental Protection Agency is also closely involved. We reviewed voluminous documentation obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and retained expert consultants to address key issues.

In January of this year, EHL submitted expert comments that disclosed serious flaws in the applicant’s analysis. By using a false set of circumstances as the “baseline” for analysis, impacts on flooding, wetlands, downstream erosion, and SBKR habitat were all underestimated. In addition to letters from expert engineers and biologists, EHL submitted a report from an economist rebutting claims that a smaller development footprint would not be economically viable. Another letter examining legal issues is under preparation by our ally, Save Lytle Creek Wash.

Lytle Creek is a rare instance where the law requires denial of permits. While this is an unusual action, sprawl development in the Lytle Creek floodplain is an extreme case, more at home in the 1940s and 1950s era of river destruction rather than 2015. While the scientific and economic information we provide is important, the outcome will ultimately depend on how well our public trust agencies perform their duties.