Skip to main content

DNR rejects SCDOT's I-73 wetland proposal

It didn't take long for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' Board to reject the DOT's $450,000 wetland mitigation proposal. Without hesitation, the board accepted DNR director John Frampton's suggestion that he negotiate a better deal with newly named DOT director, Buck Limehouse.

Limehouse has experience working with the DNR on wetland issues before as he helped to broker a deal that allowed the state to purchase 9,167 acres of land on Sandy Island as compensation for lost wetlands during the construction of the Conway Bypass and Carolina Bays Parkway.

27 acres of the Little Pee Dee Heritage Preserve would be impacted by the construction of I-73. Also, another three acres would be impacted by the construction of a new SC 917 bridge. The DNR has stated that they do not want to block the construction of I-73; however, they do expect fair compensation.

The $450,000 mitigation proposal authored by interim DOT Director Tony Chapman suggested that the DNR use the money to purchase additional land in the state and cover increased management costs.

The Heritage Trust Advisory Board also filed a report regarding I-73 and found that "...it might be more practical to cross where an existing road already crosses the preserve, rather than disturb another portion of the Little Pee Dee River corridor."

Their conclusion agrees with the DOT's Environmental Impact Statement that concluded crossing the Little Pee Dee River at SC 917 would have the least possible environmental impact. The findings of the Heritage Trust Advisory Board and the DOT is also shared by 15 other state and federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Heritage board found four direct effects that I-73 would have on the preserve.
  1. Habitat loss in the taken acreage
  2. Habitat fragmentation that could affect wildlife movements. They commented that the fragmentation is one of the more challenging and difficult impacts to measure.
  3. Property management. Including the restrictions of controlled burning.
  4. Impacts on the character of the preserve. Noise, litter, pollutants etc.
The board did not put a monetary value on each of the four impacts.

SCDOT needs the approval of the DNR in order to file for construction permits. The Federal Highway Administration would typically require a special analysis of the crossing; however, if SCDOT gets approval from the DNR that provision would be waived.

Story:
I-73: Offer for preserve crossing rejected ---Myrtle Beach Sun News

See Also:
I-73 wetland proposal delayed to May 18
SCDOT to present I-73 wetland proposal on May 3rd
SC: Heritage Trust Board won't fight I-73 but expects compensation

Commentary:
After the past few months of claims that the DOT and DNR were working together towards a solution to this issue, it sure doesn't seem like much of a joint effort. In fact in interim SCDOT director Tony Chapman's letter to the DNR, it didn't have a feel of cohesion between the two agencies. In it, he wrote that the same taxpayers who allowed the state to purchase the land for the preserve are going to be paying for the construction of I-73 and that the DNR should give the land to the DOT. However because it is a sensitive issue and area, the DOT is going to offer $450,000 for it. Sounds pretty insulting, doesn't it.

So now there's a new leader at the DOT, Buck Limehouse. Limehouse, whose appointing to the position came with much fanfare and respect from SC politicians, has had dealings with the DNR before as the SCDOT Committee Chairman during the 1990s. Frampton's offering to directly negotiate with Limehouse over the compensation is a good step. As I mentioned in the article summary, it was Limehouse who led the way in the purchasing of over 9,000 acres of land on Sandy Island as compensation for wetland impact on both the Carolina Bays Parkway and Conway Bypass.

Another thing to note was Frampton again suggested that outside influences are watching this decision and that the possible solution to the matter will be precedent setting and if done incorrectly would have detrimental consequences to everyone. He's referring to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) who has voiced its concern over the plan to build I-73 through the preserve.

But in the article some more information came out. SCDOT has been maintaining for sometime that their preferred corridor - and its routing through the preserve - has the least overall impact to the environment including the least amount of wetlands destroyed. The Heritage Trust Board seems to agree with stating a crossing further south could have more interruption to wildlife than building the Interstate where a highway already crosses the river. The article also mentions that this theory is shared by 15 other state and federal agencies including the EPA. Will the SELC take that into consideration or legally challenge the route is unknown, of course an agreement between SCDOT and SCDNR has to be reached first.

Finally, the SELC has stated that SCDOT had ignored Section 4(f) of the Federal Transportation Act of 1966. Which basically says newly constructed highways can not damage nature preserves unless there is no other viable alternative. The SELC says that there are - specifically building the route along SC 9 and SC 501. A representative of the SELC has stated that with these requirements SCDOT's I-73 routing proposal would be "very tricky" to meet the legal standards.

But with a member of the Federal Highway Administration, Shane Belcher, telling the DNR's board that their approval will allow a special analysis to be bypassed, the SELC's objections may hit a roadblock.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The story on how the unbuilt US 40 Expressway in Brownsville took 40 years to complete.

For nearly four decades, the four lane US 40 just east of Brownsville came to an abrupt end - shown in the photo above - at Grindstone Road in Redstone Township.   In the late 1960s, what was then the Pennsylvania Division of Highways (PennDOH) extended a new four lane alignment of US 40 eastwards from Broadway Street slightly over one mile to Grindstone Road where an incomplete diamond interchange was built.  Earlier in the decade, PennDOH had built a four lane US 40 in Washington County into Brownsville complete with a new crossing over the Monongahela River known as the Lane Bane Bridge.  This new highway and bridge allowed US 40 to bypass the older Intercounty Bridge and downtown Brownsville.

After this new highway opened, nothing would happen to it for nearly forty years.  US 40 traffic would use the ramps for this planned diamond interchange and then jog on Grindstone Road briefly before continuing towards Uniontown on the original National Road. 
What was unknown (at least to…

California State Route 152

Circumstance had me out in the Monterey Peninsula again this week.  Generally I try to take a route like California State Route 198 or ever County Route J1 to get across the Diablo Range but time had me in a slight bind.  That being the case I took the popular way across the Diablos on California State Route 152 via Pacheco Pass.  152 is one of infamy given it is really the primary route for truckers to get from I-5 west in San Joaquin Valley to US 101 in Salinas Valley.  After zig-zagging some accidents on/off California State Route 99 near Madera in the rural outskirts of the County bearing the same name I began my westbound trek on 152.




CA 152 is called the William Whitehurst Highway, at least it is west from CA 99.  The entire route of CA 152 in San Joaquin is an expressway aside from a small portion in the city of Los Banos.



The first junction on CA 152 is with CA 233 which is a small 4 mile highway that travels northeast to CA 99.






Next westbound CA 152 encounters the junction w…

The National Road - Ohio - Muskingum and Licking Counties

As it travels from Zanesville towards Columbus, US 40 goes through numerous small towns, changes from two to four lanes and back numerous times, but most importantly the old road keeps its rural charm.  Between Zanesville and Gratiot, there are four former alignments of the old road that can be found: just west of Zanesville, Mt. Sterling, Hopewell and Gratiot.  Most stretches are very short and can be easily recognized with names as "Old US 40", "Old National Road" or some combination of the two.

Zanesville:
Just west of US 40's interchange with Interstate 70 (Exit 152) runs an old alignment.

Mt. Sterling:
Another old alignment goes through this small Muskingum County village.
Hopewell:
Today, US 40 passes south of the community of Hopewell.  The old two lane road is known as Hopewell National Road.
Gratiot:
Old US 40 is known as Main Street in this tiny village of 200 or so residents.  The old highway at times seems forgotten through here.
Just west of Gratiot, US 40 …