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Environmental group still concerned about Mazda Toyota assembly plant’s impact on endangered fish

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Construction resumed on the Mazda Toyota assembly plant Tuesday. Construction of the $1.6 billion plant was halted earlier this month after the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The center claims it failed to protect the habitat for spring pygmy sunfish under the endangered species act in eastern Limestone County.

Spring Pygmy Sunfish

Mazda Toyota spokesperson Kim Ogle released a statement saying they've found a way to move forward. But their plan may not be enough to ease the concerns of the environmental group.

Heavy machinery is operating at the future site of the Mazda Toyota assembly plant. It's a sight some customers at the Green Briar restaurant across the street say they are happy to see.

"Well, personally I think its great for Alabama, in general, the Toyota plant expanding their operations in the state," said Huntsville resident Tucker Weir.

During the suspension, the company engaged multiple stakeholders and environmental experts.

They also invited CBD to tour the site demonstrating measures being taken to protect the fish and its habitat, including site grading, construction best management practices, and related construction activities.

Spokesperson Kim Ogle released a statement saying, "We will continue engaging the CBD, third-party experts, and other key stakeholders in developing and executing on a conservation strategy that works to preserve the spring pygmy sunfish and its habitat, and potentially enhance them."

But is the Center for Biological Diversity satisfied with what the company is doing ensure it was protecting the habitat of the spring pygmy sunfish? An attorney for the center says the answer to that question is no.

In an email, Elise Bennett, attorney for CBD, explained they are disappointed construction began again. In a statement, she says, "If the company was doing all the right things, it would have developed a habitat conservation plan and applied for an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the absence of this, we have no guarantee that they're not jeopardizing the spring pygmy sunfish's existence."

She says CBD is assessing their options and figuring out how they would like to proceed next.