Lawsuit: leave levee vegetation intact

Fish and Game sues Army Corps over tree-removal policy on federally owned levees

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers over its policy of removing all vegetation except short grass from federally owned levees.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, the Corps has required all trees and shrubs be removed from levees, a policy Fish and Game claims conflicts with the federal Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and federal Administrative Procedure Act, according to a DFG press release. The release notes that “[a]s early as 1955, the Corps encouraged and even required the planting of trees and shrubs on California levees” and that native riparian vegetation is “compatible with flood control and such … vegetation can often act to minimize damage during a flood event.”

The Corps’ policy, introduced in California in 2007, asserts that tree roots hasten water leakage that could weaken levees.