Environmental groups have again sued over the proposed Newhall Ranch development, alleging this week the federal agencies that approved permits for the planned community did so in violation of federal environmental protective legislation.

The move comes about a month after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge tossed out a lawsuit filed by environmentalists against Los Angeles County because of its approval of the Newhall Ranch proposal.

The more recent suit was filed Thursday in federal court and names the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for issuing permits for Newhall Ranch in 2011.

“These federal permits pave the way for the destruction of the Santa Clara River, one of the most endangered rivers in America, by bringing massive development within the river’s floodplain and along its tributaries,” said John Buse, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the public-interest groups that filed the suit.

The suit says the federal agencies failed to comply with the Clean Water Act by issuing the permits. It also claims the development would destroy or damage habitat for a variety of rare animals and plants, including the unarmored threespine stickleback, the California condor and the San Fernando Valley spineflower.

Proposed in the 1980s and put through a rigorous environmental review process in the 1990s and 2000s, Newhall Ranch would add to northwestern Santa Clarita Valley some 21,000 new homes, along with commercial development and schools and fire stations, in a master-planned community.

Planned by Newhall Land Development Inc., the same company that developed Valencia, Newhall Ranch would be located near the Santa Clara River off Highway 126.

Among the groups that joined in the lawsuit was Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Three other groups plus the Center for Biological Diversity filed the federal suit and have long souNEWHALL RANCH – The Ranch on the Riverght to block the development since it was proposed.

On Jan. 31, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio ruled against the coalition in a joint lawsuit filed a year ago, saying the groups’ suit against the county failed to make its case and that the environmental reviews conducted for Newhall Ranch clearly addressed the issues raised.

Three years ago an environmental coalition sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a permit issued on the project.

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