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Sierra Club v. Department of Transp.

Citation: 19 ELR 20320
No. No. C 86-3384 RFP, 695 F. Supp. 460/(N.D. Cal., 07/07/1988)

The court holds that the Secretary of Transportation violated the Department of Transportation Act by not preparing a study under § 4(f) before approving construction of the Devil's Slide highway bypass in a California park. The court first holds that a § 4(f) study is required for a highway that will use park land even if the park and highway are jointly planned. It is immaterial that the state park agency acquired the park after the state transportation agency acquired the bypass right-of-way. Section 4(f) applies to all parks that exist when the Secretary considers approving a project, not merely to parks that existed before the project was planned. Use of land in a jointly planned park is not significantly different from use of land in a pre-existing park if a § 4(f) study would show an alternative route not using land in any park. Although this holding may discourage joint park planning, it favors park protection, which § 4(f) makes paramount. The court next holds that the bypass would constructively use park land, and thus is subject to § 4(f). The bypass would have significant cumulative adverse impacts on the park, including its aesthetics, wildlife, plants, trails, noise level, and hydrology. Although the park agency acquired the land knowing of the bypass plans, the bypass as planned is not part of the park's baseline condition; actual construction would still constitute constructive use. The court also holds that the park agency's decision to buy the park knowing of the bypass plans is not a binding determination that the highway would not substantially impair the park. It merely reflects a determination that the bypass would not completely destroy the value of the park, which is quite different from what § 4(f) requires.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert J. Breakstone
Breakstone & Cotsirilos
240 Stockton St., Ste. 500,San Francisco CA 94108
(415) 397-8666

Maribeth Halloran
3864 18th St., San Francisco CA 94114
(415) 861-1197

Counsel for Defendants
Paul E. Locke, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Land and Natural Resources Division
450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco CA 94102
(415) 556-5134