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Lawsuit: Toyota-Mazda plant could make rare fish extinct

LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala -  A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. raises concerns over the environmental impact of the Toyota-Mazda plant.

While many happily anticipate what the plant will bring in, the Center for Biological Diversity is more concerned with what it may push out of the area.

According to the Center, the spring pygmy sunfish's habitat is in imminent danger. It prompted the Center to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on claims it failed to protect the habitat for spring pygmy sunfish under the Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Wildlife Service protected the fish as a threatened species in 2013.

Elise Bennett, an attorney with the center said, "Habitat destruction pushed this little fish to the brink of extinction, and it'll be the final nail in the coffin if the service doesn't protect what little habitat remains. Allowing urban sprawl and manufacturing plants to degrade the spring pygmy sunfish's unprotected pools and wetlands puts the entire species at risk."

The small, rare sunfish are found near the Beaverdam Spring and Creek watershed in east Limestone County near the site of the plant.

According to our news partners at Al.com, the sunfish was considered extinct twice since its discovery.

Huntsville officials say all parties have done their part to protect the species. Monday they released the following statement:

The landowners of the proposed project site have been proactive in environmental stewardship for many years regarding farming operations and future development.  The landowners entered into a “Protected Habitat Area” through joint efforts between the original landowners (Sewell and McDonald); the US Fish & Wildlife Service; and Department of Interior in 2012.  This joint effort resulted in the issuance of both (i) a Candidate Conversation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) and (ii) Enhancement of Survival Permit for the surrounding properties.

The project site has filed for and been granted appropriate permits that allow for both the development of the project site, while also providing protection of the habitat area.  The existing CCAA and Permit requires a 150 foot non-disturbance buffer around Moss Spring and no development activities to occur within a 150 acre aquatic area on the east side of Powell Road.  The “no development zone” is defined in the CCAA as the 150 acre PROTECTED AREA.

The project is in full compliance with preliminary construction plans/activities as they related to the CCAA, Army Corp of Engineers, and US Fish & Wildlife.