Local News

Endangered Species Halt Construction On Highway 70 Bypass

Posted November 21, 2003

— At one time, construction was set to begin in 2000 on the Highway 70 bypass project in Clayton, but the work was stopped, in part, because of an endangered species that lives in the area.

"I think we're past the point of excitement. We're into the area of frustration," Town Manager Steve Biggs said.

Biggs said construction could have started last month, now it may be two years, thanks to an endangered species, the

dwarf wedge mussel

, that was found in nearby Swift Creek. Environmentalists say the project's effect on its environment must be studied.

"You know we rely on those streams in the same way. It's not as obvious, but it's the same way as the animals that live in it," said Scott Van Horn, an aquatic biologist with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Environmental studies take time, and in this case, officials believe it is important because mussels can alert people to problems and pollutants in the state's waterways. Local officials say it is not that people do not understand.

"I think it's really the pace that bothers some people, not the environmental protection," Biggs said.

The state Department of Transportation recently completed a survey that shows how large the dwarf wedge mussel population is in that area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review that information.

DOT officials believe construction can begin in the summer of 2005. That construction could take three years to complete.


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