July 30, 2008

Judge Blocks Fish and Wildlife Service From Accepting Land Donations in Area Sought for Lake Fastrill

By Rudolph Bush, The Dallas Morning News

Jul. 30--A federal judge has granted a small, and perhaps temporary, victory to the city of Dallas and the Texas Water Development Board in their fight to build a massive water reservoir in East Texas.

U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis issued an injunction late Monday preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from accepting donations of any land in the areas that Dallas and the water board intend to use for the reservoir that would be known as Lake Fastrill.

The city and the water board have sued Fish and Wildlife to prevent the establishment of a wildlife refuge on the land in Anderson and Cherokee counties.

Earlier this month, Judge Solis issued a ruling favoring Fish and Wildlife's plans and endangering efforts to build the lake.

The state plans to appeal that ruling.

But an appeal probably would have been moot had Fish and Wildlife been allowed to accept land donations for its refuge. Once the federal agency had acquired land within the refuge boundaries, any state or local projects in that area would have required an act of Congress.

Earlier this month, Judge Solis issued a separate ruling that put the construction of Lake Fastrill in serious doubt.

He ruled against a claim by the city and the water board that Fish and Wildlife had filed an inadequate environmental assessment of the land. He also ruled that the agency was not required to complete a more thorough environmental impact statement.

The ruling gutted a large portion of the suit against the agency, apparently clearing the path for the establishment of the 25,281-acre refuge.


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