The board of trustees unanimously voted Dec. 16 to accept the recommendation of district staff and outside counsel Nossaman LLP and Smith Robertson LLP to initiate litigation against the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and such related parties as may be appropriate in federal district court. The item was discussed during a closed session.
The district said in a release that the action is "due to the agencies’ failure and refusal to further process the application for a permit to design and construct the access road."
"USFWS will not process the district’s permit application unless the district obtains ownership or control over the proposed right-of-way, a portion which is owned by Travis County, who has opposed the project," according to the district.
The two Austin schools can only be accessed from RM 2222 off McNeil Drive, and LISD previously proposed a second access road due to traffic safety concerns and to provide a second exit road in case of emergency.
However, the proposed project would go through preserve land for the federally endangered black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler and federally threatened Jollyville Plateau salamander, according to previous Community Impact Newspaper reporting.
In 2013, LISD began coordination with the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan to use the land for the access road. The proposed road also runs through land owned by 3M, which was supportive of the project.
LISD Chief Facilities Officer Jimmy Disler said in 2017 that it became apparent in 2014 that LISD needed to go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The project was estimated to cost $15-17 million in 2017 including a mile of road with a 100-foot right of way and an 800-foot bridge to protect habitat below the bridge. Voters approved some funding in the 2017 bond election for the project, according to LISD.
A social media campaign began in 2017 following a public forum using the hashtag #BuildTheRoad.