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Feds: California rail project is infringing on fox habitat
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FRESNO  (AP) — California’s $68 billion high-speed rail was chastised by federal officials for infringing on the habitat of the protected kit fox.

In a Jan. 26 letter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Federal Railroad Administration are out of compliance with environmental commitments for building the bullet-train line in the Fresno-Madera area, the Fresno Bee reported Monday.

The letter claims a contractor’s preliminary work infringed on habitat for the fox.

The authority has pledged to make up for the loss of the habitat by providing additional habitat elsewhere in the Central Valley.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regional office in Sacramento and the state rail authority characterized the problem as a communication issue, not willful disregard of the rules.

Ground was officially broken on the initial phase of the project in January but preliminary work had been done prior to that.

The San Joaquin kit fox, about the size of a cat, has been on the federal endangered species list since 1967.

In the letter, a Fish and Wildlife official chastised the agencies for work done by contractor Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons last June.

Fish and Wildlife Deputy Assistant Field Administrator Dan Russell said the agency was not notified of the unauthorized work until an Aug. 29 telephone conversation. A written notification didn’t come until Oct. 21.

A biologist hired by the contractor determined a potential San Joaquin kit fox den near the Fresno site was not active last summer.

With the high-speed rail system, the state has promised to combat global warming while whisking travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.

The initial work is on a 142-mile stretch north and south of Fresno.