The Sierra Club sued in 1998, claiming that the city-operated toll road to the top of the 14,110-foot peak was degrading watersheds and wetlands by spilling gravel and sediment into streams. In April, the city agreed to clean up the road, which will probably mean paving it. It will also spend $300,000 on projects on other parts of the mountain and pay the Sierra Club $100,000 to cover a portion of its legal expenses. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch still needs to approve the agreement.
The lawsuit was frivolous, according to John Fredell, lead attorney for the city. "We were committed to all of the conditions of this settlement before the Sierra Club took us to court."
"Had the city made a commitment last summer to do this work in 10 years, this lawsuit never would have happened," argues Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund Attorney Michael Freeman. "Now there is a binding agreement to complete the work on a fixed schedule and to put the resources up to do it right."
The city says it can do the job for under $14 million, but Freeman warns, "What we won't accept are shortcuts that don't provide the full required protection for Pikes Peak." The Sierra Club is still suing the Forest Service, which manages the mountain, asking for an additional $300,000 in clean-up money.