The monarch butterfly and the mountain lion are complicating the already complex Bakersfield-to-Palmdale portion of California’s High-Speed Rail project.
The High-Speed Rail Authority was recently forced to revise environmental impact documents after both creatures became candidates for endangered species lists. The revisions must take place to satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which require mitigation efforts for significant environmental impacts.
Unfortunately for mountain lions and monarch butterflies, the HSRA found that the High-Speed Rail could significantly impact their populations.
That, despite the fact that neither the mountain lion nor the monarch butterfly have been observed in the area along the rail line. Still, HSRA says it will put mitigation measures in place to limit the impacts on the two populations during and after construction of the railway.
“The environmental process is set up so that you’ve got to make everybody aware in the notification process of what the potential impacts are. But just because there’s a potential impact doesn’t mean you can’t build it. It just means you have to mitigate it,” said Rob Ball, deputy director of Kern Council of Governments.
An HSR spokesperson said by email that the revisions would not add significant cost to the $15.7 billion project, nor would they alter the timeline.