Endangered frogs delay cleanup in city ravaged by wildfires

FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2019 file photo, an excavator loads debris onto a truck while clearing a property burned by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. Fears of harming an endangered frog species have forced crews to delay cleaning debris from about 800 properties in Paradise, angering some residents anxious to start rebuilding their homes. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

PARADISE, Calif. — Fears of harming an endangered frog species have forced crews to delay cleaning debris from about 800 properties in Paradise, angering some residents anxious to start rebuilding their homes.

Those tasked with debris removal have been told to wait until state and federal officials reach an agreement on guidelines to address the environmental concerns, The Sacramento Bee reported Friday. Construction projects often require state environmental inspections because of concerns about sensitive species.

The revelation that the cleanup of some stream-side properties destroyed by the November blaze are now on hold triggered a strong public rebuke Thursday from two local legislators who said they heard about it from angry constituents.

In statement calling the situation absurd, Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, and Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, lamented "that frogs, birds and waterways are causing work to stop in some areas."

"Survivors are anxious to rebuild or move on. Our neighbors have gone through hell in this disaster, and must be the priority," they said in a joint statement.

State Fish and Wildlife officials informed other agencies that 800 properties near waterways will require an extra level of site assessment to make sure the work will not cause environmental harm, including to an endangered frog species that resides on the ridge, said Eric Lamoureux, a California Office of Emergency Services spokesman.

The state expects to have a protocol in place in the next few days, he said.

Lamoureux pointed out debris cleanup operations have not been slowed by the environmental questions. There are 141 crews on the hillside, clearing about 100 sites a day, he said.

Alicia Rock, whose home on Clear Creek was destroyed in the fire, is one of those being affected by the delay.

"I have followed the process to a T. Now I am being held up," she said. "Come on guys, you've had six months. You knew this was coming."

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com

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