LAX and Shrimp – Your Tax Dollars at Work…..?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
City to Move Endangered Shrimp From Airport to Preserve
By Jennifer Oldham
The Los Angeles (CA) Times

The city will undertake a massive relocation effort, moving 468 tons of dirt by hand, to try to save some tiny endangered shrimp that live at Los Angeles International Airport. The plan, outlined in a 22-page agreement obtained by The Times, requires the Los Angeles airport agency to move the Riverside fairy shrimp to the Madrona Marsh in Torrance, or, if Torrance won’t take them, to the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County.

The decision ends a six-year debate among the airport agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Aviation Administration over what to do with the extensive shrimp habitat.

Fish and Wildlife also ruled Tuesday that aviation officials will not be required to create a 108-acre preserve for endangered shrimp at LAX.

The service had argued that the preserve was necessary because the world’s fifth-busiest airport is one of the last refuges for Southern California’s rapidly dwindling Riverside fairy shrimp population.

But aviation officials contended that protecting the shrimp at LAX was impossible because they require standing water, which attracts birds and other wildlife. Birds, in turn, could be sucked into jet engines, endangering passengers.

In Tuesday’s decision, Fish and Wildlife agreed that the shrimp could not thrive at LAX because the FAA requires the airport to remove water and vegetation that could attract birds – leaving the shrimp stuck in the microscopic cyst, or egg, state.

“Biologically, it didn’t meet the criteria of being eligible for critical habitat designation,” said Jane Hendron, a service spokeswoman. “Because of the concerns for passenger safety, the FAA does not want standing water in that area, so the shrimp had not been able to complete their lifecycle.”

In a final rule published Tuesday, Fish and Wildlife designated 306 acres in Ventura, Orange and San Diego counties as critical habitats for the shrimp.

Riverside fairy shrimp exist only in several areas in Southern California; they were discovered at LAX in 1998, when officials cataloged species for airport modernization plans. The translucent creatures, which in adulthood reach half an inch to an inch in length, inhabit warm freshwater pools that form during the rainy season.

The FAA and airport agency officials were pleased with the service’s decision.

“We worked long and hard with Fish and Wildlife, and I’m delighted we came to closure on this,” said Jim Ritchie, a deputy executive director at the city’s airport agency.

Airport officials hope to start moving about 468 tons of soil that contain the shrimp by September either 10 miles south to the Madrona Marsh, or 40 miles south to El Toro.

The service has asked that the agency collect the soil in chunks when it’s dry and that it use hand trowels – quite an undertaking on the 1.3 acres that are targeted for relocation. The dirt will then be trucked to its final location.

Before it moves the shrimp, the city must create a preserve for them in Torrance or at El Toro.