The Center for Biological Diversity and the Save Our Springs Alliance notified the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Jan. 9 of their intent to sue the agency for failing to take emergency action and declare the Jollyville Plateau salamander an endangered species. The salamander is currently on a long waiting list for protected status. The advocacy groups say the survival of the rare salamander is threatened by the city's ongoing construction of Water Treatment Plant No. 4 in Northwest Austin. Opponents of the plant believe the protected status should warrant halting construction altogether.
While a lawsuit was expected to spring from the WTP4 case in relation to the Jollyville salamander, the notice of intent follows last month's discovery of a leak in a shaft being excavated over the northern section of the Edwards Aquifer. The salamander lives in springs that depend on fresh water from the aquifer, and the groups say the leaking shaft could deplete the salamander's water supply. City officials say they're fixing the leak and that protective measures are in place to ensure the survival of the species. The would-be plaintiffs aren't buying it. As Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney with the center, said in a statement, "This tiny salamander, which exists nowhere in the world except Texas, could be driven extinct by the construction."
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