Rocky Flats land swap: Department of Justice headed to court to lift roadblock

The Justice Department could be in federal court today, filing a motion to lift the roadblock that Superior (joined by Golden) put in the path of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife's plan to transfer a 300-foot right-of-way on the east side of Rocky Flats to the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority.

Superior had filed suit to stop the deal on December 14, the day after Fish and Wildlife announced that it had signed off on a complicated land swap that would also add a 617-acre parcel on the southwest edge of Rocky Flats, the former nuclear weapons plant that's becoming a wildlife refuge, at the same time it transferred a hundred acres to the Jefferson Parkway. In its filing, Superior asked for a more detailed environmental assessment.

Golden, a longtime opponent of the Jefferson Parkway, had been negotiating for $57 million in transportation improvements in exchange for giving the deal its approval -- but last month Golden, too, filed suit to stop the swap.

Back in December, Fish and Wildlife had said the land transfer could begin as early as January. But last month, the target date was pushed back until September, while the Department of Justice prepared its response to the suit. If the parties all agree, the deal could go through sooner, a spokesman said.

But they're unlikely to agree. Because the roadblock erected by Superior and Golden got some added support this week, when the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Wild and the Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians joined the suit.

Superior and Golden are worried about what traffic from the toll road, a link in the metro beltway, would do to their towns. The environmental groups have added concerns about the hazards it would pose to both human health and that of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

"Our open space is critical to our quality of life and the prosperity of our communities, yet the Fish and Wildlife Service is not only selling off part of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, but also signing off on more sprawl and unplanned development," said Josh Pollock, conservation director for Rocky Mountain Wild, in announcing the move. "We need smart planning and smart solutions, not more highways or tollways."

Read more about the December controversy created by the Rocky Flats land-swap deal in the column "Plans for the Jefferson County Parkway are kicking up lots of dust."

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