The US Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to approve a lawsuit against the city of Denver, Colorado, over the city’s removal of a concrete slab from a city-owned park and paving it over to make way for a highway interchange.
The move has prompted protests across the US and a number of lawsuits.
The case is currently before the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, which oversees the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
The city says the slab is not illegal, and says it is protecting its property from “the risk of flooding and degradation” from erosion caused by the cement slabs.
However, the lawsuit says the city has failed to demonstrate that it had a “rational” policy to remove the slab.
“Denver’s decision to remove a slab that would have protected and improved the quality of the park is a clear-cut case of government overreach,” said attorney Mark L. Krasnyk, who represents the city.
“The City and its contractors have been using a variety of tactics to block the removal of the slab, including filing false, misleading and otherwise illegal claims about the validity of the permit that allowed the slab to be removed.”
Krasnysk said the city had violated the federal Clean Water Act by not following proper environmental requirements.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the city from removing the slab until it can be evaluated by a federal agency, which could take up to five years.
The Denver Post reported last month that the city was looking for a replacement slab for the park in hopes of securing federal funds.
It said that after the slab was removed, water levels dropped significantly in the park and the river and caused a major decline in the number of fish in the river.
“This is not the first time we have seen the removal and destruction of private property by the City of Denver,” said Michael R. Lappin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The city had hoped to replace the slab with concrete for the Interstate 70 bridge that runs through the park, but the city ultimately decided to remove it, citing environmental concerns. “
The lawsuit says that the park was built to support an area that would accommodate over 20,000 people and that the concrete slab “would have greatly benefited the park by reducing the impact of erosion, allowing for better river conditions, and providing additional habitat for native species.
“The city had hoped to replace the slab with concrete for the Interstate 70 bridge that runs through the park, but the city ultimately decided to remove it, citing environmental concerns.
In addition to the lawsuit, several other groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a similar suit in federal court in Colorado in December against the City, its contractors and the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for violating the Clean Water Acts.