Feds: $2B North Carolina toll road no threat to endangered mussels
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that a $2.2 billion North Carolina toll road, part of the Triangle Expressway in the Raleigh-Durham area, will not negatively affect two species of endangered mussels, a decision which creates a path for the final portions of the project to move forward, according to The News & Observer.
- As part of its decision, the agency determined that the new toll road would not significantly increase development and that the mussel population could be protected if proper care is used during construction. The decision from the federal agency means that the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will not have to raze residential areas, businesses and other commercial developments as part of a proposed alternate route. NCDOT will also invest $5 million in a hatchery that will study and then release the threatened dwarf wedgemussel and yellow lance mussel.
- Environmentalists still argue that the benefits of the toll road will not make up for the environmental damage it will inflict on the area and pointed out that the NCDOT funding for the hatchery is only enough to keep it operational for five years. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which has filed and settled at least one similar lawsuit in North Carolina, could file a legal action to stop or delay the toll road as well.
Infrastructure projects like the Triangle Expressway project are important to keep both commuter and freight traffic moving efficiently, often a make-or-break feature when states or local governments try to draw in new business to the area. However, environmental and preservation groups sometimes throw a wrench into almost any project, especially in a state like California, where groups have successfully delayed both private and public partnerships believed to be in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The Mission Bay Alliance raised a CEQA issue over the NBA's new $1 billion Golden State Warriors' arena that delayed the team's use of the new venue by a year. The primary complaint was that the construction and operation of such a huge event and sports venue would negatively affect traffic to and from nearby hospitals. However, a judge eventually ruled that the project could move forward.
CEQA could also impact the $77 billion bullet train that will eventually connect northern and southern California. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling confirming a lower court decision that the beleaguered high-speed rail line must comply with the act, making it more vulnerable to lawsuits.
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