BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (CN) – A big highway project to a new business park could damage Mammoth Cave, an environmental group says. Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest known cave system in the world, a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and home to more than 70 threatened or endangered species.
The $70 million federal project is in the “heart of the South Central Kentucky karst, an integrated set of subterranean drainage basins covering more than 400 square miles,” Karst Environmental Education and Protection claims in Federal Court.
The group claims the Federal Highway Administration will violate the National Environmental Policy Act if allowed to build the project as planned.
The new roads will serve the 1,200-acre Kentucky Trimodal Transpark in Bowling Green, 6 miles west of Mammoth Cave. The project includes 2.6 miles of new, 6-lane “divided freeway-type connector road,” a new “partial interchange” and widening of other roads near the business park.
The environmental group points out that Mammoth Cave, by far the longest discovered cave in the world, is just part of the enormous underground ecosystem that are “inextricably linked.”
It says the project will “affect an area that is geologically unique in the nation and the world – the karst and cave environment of the Pennyroyal Sinkhole Plain, the adjacent Dripping Springs Escarpment and the Graham Springs underground drainage basin.”
Graham Springs “contains nationally significant archeological sites, many of which contain petroglyphs and human remains.”
KarstEEP claims the FHA’s environmental impact statement failed to take a “hard look” at the harm the project could do to Mammoth Cave, the related archeological sites and nearby residential areas. It claims the toxic air pollution will hurt “water quality, subterranean species and potential archeological resources.”
And it claims the environmental impact statement does not take into account the possibility of the “Grand Spring underground drainage basin (in which the project and Transpark are located) could spill over into the Mammoth Cave basin, thereby endangering the groundwater and its biota of Mammoth Cave National Park from water-borne containments associated with stormwater runoff from the project and pollution from the Transpark industrial park and airport.”
Eighteen karst scientists expressed concern about this in a letter during the environmental review, the group says.
The group wants the environmental impact set aside, and the FHA ordered to consider less harmful alternatives.
The group is represented by Leslie Barras of Louisville.