INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - Environmentalists have challenged plans for a $3 billion Interstate 69 project between Evansville and Indianapolis. They claim the Army Corps of Engineers' design will wipe out thousands of acres of forests, farmlands, caves and aquatic ecosystems along the length of 142 miles of highway.
The Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads claim the Corps of Engineers illegally gave the Indiana Department of Transportation permits to dump fill material into nearly 60 acres of protected wetlands in Davies and Greene Counties.
The 15-page federal complaint claims the highway project will make a mess of everything in its path, dumping 215,576 cubic yards of fill into ecologically important swamps and streams.
According to the complaint: "The proposed I-69 Highway project between Indianapolis and Evansville would be approximately 142 miles long, would cost over $3 billion, and would, through direct and indirect impacts, destroy over 7,000 acres of land, including approximately 4,319 acres of farmland and approximately 1,985 acres of forestland. Nearly 450 karst features (caves, sinkholes, underground streams) will be damaged or disturbed."
The project "will require dredging and filling at least 60 acres of wetlands, construction of approximately 127 perennial and intermittent stream crossings," according to the complaint.
The environmental groups claim the Corps of Engineers' plans violate the Clean Water Act, failed to consider better alternatives, "failed to consider the project's cumulative environmental impacts."
They particularly object to Section 3 of the plan, which will cost $340 million and ruin 7,000 acres: "Construction of Section 3 of the project will include 24 crossings of waters of the United States, impacting more 4,700 linear feet of stream and filling more than 6 acres of wetlands."
The complaint states" "If the defendant's actions are not enjoined and reversed, they will cause irreparable harm to the region's aquatic ecosystem, natural resources and environmental quality, to the plaintiff organizations and their members, and to the public in the manner described herein, in violation of federal law, and contrary to the public interest."
They seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They are represented by Mick Harrison of Bloomington.
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