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Case Study_ I69 Expansion Environmental Impacts.doc

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Case Study_ I69 Expansion Environmental Impacts.doc

  1. 1. Environmental ImpactsThe I-69 project while running through a large portion of the state will cross many environmentallysensitive areas and farmland, may affect animal life, and may have impacts on air and water quality.Below is a map showing many of the sensitive areas that the various proposed I-69 routes will impact.Air QualityDue to various clean air laws, The Clean Air Act and the 1990 clean air act amendments, the EPA hasstandards for several air pollutants. These pollutants are particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbonmonoxide, ozone, oxides of nitrogen, and lead. When a county fails to meet these standards they aretermed a nonattainment area. When a nonattainment area once again meets the EPA standards it is thenplaced into a maintenance area category for twenty years. Marion and Vanderburgh counties, the startand end points for the I-69 project in Indiana, fall into this maintenance area category so air pollution
  2. 2. has to be looked at very carefully. All other counties in the proposed paths of I-69 have been in fullcompliance with EPA standards.Therefore, the air pollution from the increased vehicle traffic has to be taken into account for the I-69project. However, it is not just vehicle miles traveled on the road that has to be taken into account butalso the grade of the road. Highways will produce more pollutants than a smaller road because of thehigher speeds traveled. According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the study was done by theFederal Highway Administration and the Indiana Department of Transportation in 2003, all of theproposed routes for I-69 meet the standards for all of the air pollutants se by the EPA.Endangered SpeciesTaking all of the proposed I-69 routes into concern, there are five endangered and one threatenedspecies in the affected areas, according to the Environmental Impact Statement. The endangeredspecies are the Indiana Bat, American Burying Beetle, Eastern Fanshell Mussel, Fat PocketbookMussel, and the Rough Pigtoe Mussel. The threatened specie is the American Bald Eagle. With thepreferred path for I-69 chosen by former Governor O’Bannon in 2003, the Indiana Bat, American BaldEagle, and Eastern Fanshell Mussel would be the only three out of the six affected. Once these specieswere identified, a more in depth biological assessment was done by the US Forestry and WildlifeService which determined that none of the three species continued existence would be endangeredfurther.Water QualityThere are seven types of natural water features that could possibly be affected by the I-69 project,lakes, streams, sinking basins, sinkholes, public water supplies, public wells, and wellhead protectionareas which feed wells. While there should be little to no direct impact on public water supplies, eachpossible route for I-69 crosses at least a few of the other types of water features.One of the first concerns of the Environmental Impact Statement was road runoff. The reason that thisis bad is because of the chemicals used in the salt in the winter time. The melting snow and ice carrythese chemicals into the surrounding areas and there are concerns for plant life, soil, water, andanimals. After an investigation done by the Federal Highway Administration, it was determined that therunoff from the I-69 project would be within acceptable EPA standards.Another concern is that runoff, chemical spills, and other problems might get into wellhead areas andseep into the aquifers that are used for public water. However, these areas which would be affected byI-69 are already crossed by roadways and so already have emergency response contingencies in place.The emergency response should be able to contain any situations before it gets into the public watersupply.ForestsDifferent kinds of ecosystems, such as forest or prairie, can be harmed by roads cutting through them.It may not seem like a road would have a big impact just by going through a forest but it can. Withinthese ecosystems there is a core and an edge. The core is approximately 100 meters from the outsideand the area in between is the edge. A road going through the edge will shrink the core but a road goingthrough the core can completely fracture an ecosystem. The new open spaces caused by the road canallow invasive plan species to enter which choke out the natural areas that were previously there. The
  3. 3. preferred route for I-69 is estimated to cost 387 acres of core forest according to the EnvironmentalImpact Statement. This amount was average with two other routes costing less and two costing more.These effects have a direct impact on the animals that live in the forests. Often, many animals live inthe core of a forest, not the edge. Significant fracturing of the core will have similar significant affectson those animals. Higher amounts of edge areas also increase the number of predators that will furthercause population decline. Highways are also barriers to animals that need to travel or migrate todifferent areas. This can cut animals off from resources that they need or isolate them completelywhich could lead to population decline or even extinction in small populations. Finally, roads also leadto a higher incidence of death due to being hit by vehicles as well as increased access to hunters.These concerns are very important for conservation of the state’s natural resources. At this point, plansto mitigate the ecosystem impact of I-69 are being considered but the details will not be planned untilthe next phase of I-69 planning.FarmlandThere are two types of farmland, prime farmland and non-prime farmland. According to the NationalResource Conservation Service which is cited in the Environmental Impact Statement, Indiana is losingprime farmland three to four times faster than the non-prime farmland due to development and urbanexpansion. The problem becomes that the state is developing mostly on its land best for farming whileleaving a lot of the less useful farmland alone. Farming more and more on less productive land islowering the average returns that farmers are getting from their crops.Prime farmland losses among the various routes being considered range from roughly 2.5 to 4.5thousand acres. According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the preferred route is estimated tolose a total of 4.3 thousand acres of farmland with 2.9 being prime farmland. This total loss isestimated to cost $1,000,000 in crop production which is above average for the routes. Davies Countywould be especially hit hard with nearly a third of the cost of crop loss.While these acreages are not a large percent of the state’s farmland, it is not the only developmentgoing on in the sate. Additionally, the Farmland Protection Policy Act requires that federal projectstake farmland destruction into account in the planning process. The best way to mitigate farmland lossis to try to avoid it completely. In phase 2 planning for the I-69 project, minor realignments are likelysuch as running the highway along property lines, crossing fields at perpendicular angles, andadjustment of interchange locations in order to try to lessen the affects of the highway on the state’sagriculture.WetlandsAccording to the Environmental Impact Statement, wetlands only account for 3.5% of Indiana but holdan unusually large amount of plants and animals compared to other environments and a large portion ofthem are endangered. This makes even a small impact on wetland areas very important because thewildlife and plants are so concentrated in these small areas. Additionally, wetlands can feed aquifersand some areas are important because they act as flood control. There are four major wetland areaswithin Southwest Indiana as well as several smaller ones.The preferred I-69 route would affect 75 acres of wetlands which is about average for the variousroutes which affect 20 to 105 acres. Mitigation planning involves bridging through wetlands as well as
  4. 4. narrowing the construction zone. Additionally, any wetlands affected will be replaced at a ratio of 2:1or 3:1 depending on what type it is. For the preferred route it is estimated that for the 75 acres taken,220 will be replaced.Sources: Federal Highway Administration and Indiana Department of Transportation, I-69 Evansville to Indianapolis, Indiana, Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement & Section 4(f) Evaluation, Volume 1, Dec. 2003, http://www.deis.i69indyevn.org/FEIS/Vol1-FEIS/index.html (March - April 2006)

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