A 60-day notice was sent out Friday, November 22, 2002 charging the Army Corps of Engineers and Diablo Grande Partners with Endangered Species Act violations in connection with the Diablo Grande development project in western Stanislaus County on the eastern slope of the Diablo Range. Earthjustice issued the letter on behalf of clients Protect Our Water and the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center.
Diablo Grande is a 29,500-acre planned destination resort and residential community. The overall development plan proposes, in five phases to be built over 20 years, to construct six golf courses, swim and tennis facilities, hotel and executive conference centers, a research campus, winery and vineyards, municipal facilities, town center, shops and offices, and three types of residential units.The project is located in prime habitat area for the endangered San Joaquin kit fox, the threatened California red-legged frog, and the valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
The Notice charges the Corps with failure to adequately protect these species as required under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Notice also charges Diablo Grande with illegal “takes” of the kit fox, as well as other egregious ESA violations. Despite numerous requests over the past seven years from the US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as from environmental groups, the Corps has repeatedly ignored its statutory obligations under ESA, and Diablo Grande Ltd has proceeded with construction without proper authorization to do so.
Protect Our Water and the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center have written several letters regarding these violations to the Corps as well as to Stanislaus County, who issued permits allowing the work to proceed. After the failure of the Corps and Diablo Grande Ltd to respond, the groups are compelled to initiate legal actions to remedy this situation.
Earthjustice staff attorney Mike Sherwood noted, “It is truly shocking to see federal agencies have such flagrant disregard for federal laws. This letter puts the Army Corps and Diablo Grande on notice that if they don’t clean up their act within 60 days, our clients will have no choice but to file suit.”
The notice letter points out that If the Corps and Diablo Grande Ltd. does not remedy these violations, appropriate actions will be commenced in United States District Court. To remedy them, and to prevent future violations, “…all work on the Project must stop immediately until the Corps has consulted with the Service on the full impacts of the entire Project on all listed species, and until Diablo Grande Ltd. has applied for and the Service has approved an incidental take permit …, including the preparation of an adequate habitat conservation plan for the entire Project.”