Chesterton Tribune

Environmentalists sue to block I69 construction over caves and wetlands

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana environmentalists are suing to stop construction of I-69 in southern Indiana.

Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and the I-69 Accountability Project said the road expansion would violate federal environmental laws. A lawyer for the groups also says the project would threaten the Indiana Bat and violate the federal Endangered Species Act.

The groups filed suit Monday in federal court in Indianapolis.

A spokesman for Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads said the group believes the state highway department underestimated in its count of nearly 1,500 geologic features such as sinkholes, caves and springs in the path of the latest approved section.

"I-69 should never have been routed through this extremely environmentally sensitive area," Thomas Tokarski said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation completed an important environmental review for the massive highway project last week. The newly-approved stretch would run from the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center to Bloomington.

An INDOT spokesman said Monday the agency was reviewing the complaint.

The highway project is meant to connect Evansville to Indianapolis. It has been a centerpiece of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 10-year transportation program.

This lawsuit, prepared by attorney Mick Harrison with support from GreenFire Consulting LLC, asserts numerous violations of federal law by INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the Transportation Act. All of the alleged violations relate to the environmental impacts, design, funding, and construction of the new-terrain I-69 interstate highway extension.

Harrison said “In response to the Governor’s recent statement that I-69 would be built to Bloomington ‘whether they like it or not’-- and despite the Governor’s earlier announcement that he was ‘throwing out the rule book’ in building I-69, INDOT and Governor Daniels must comply with federal law, whether they like it or not.”

The entire complaint is posted at:

http://i69whistleblower.org/

In February, the Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads filed a lawsuit claiming the Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by giving the state permission to fill wetlands and reroute streams along the I-69 route in Greene and Daviess counties.

That lawsuit, which is still pending in federal court, asked that the highway be rerouted to a less environmentally disruptive route along existing highways, U.S. 41 and Interstate 70.

 

Posted 8/2/2011