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Environmentalists, Residents Upset With Proposed U.S. 1 Bypass

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MOORE COUNTY, N.C. — After years of legal wrangling, the U.S. 1 bypass finally has the green light in Moore County, but there is a feud brewing between economic and environmental interests.

Officials with the state Department of Transportation want to build a $47 million, 12-mile bypass that will take drivers directly into the area.

"We really don't have access to Moore County by four-lane highway," county commissioner Michael Holden said. "It will make it easier to get to Raleigh and the interstates in that area."

The proposed bypass will run right through the land Clinton Peele has farmed for 30 years. He will lose 42 acres and a spring-fed pond that never runs dry, even during last summer's drought.

"It splits my farm in two," he said. "It's taking my pond, my main source of water for my cattle operation."

Peele joined another landowner and an environmental group in court to try and stop the U.S. 1 bypass. They lost one battle this week, when a judge ruled the project could go forward.

With construction scheduled to begin in 10 days, both sides are trying to beat the clock.

"If the road gets completed or substantially completed before the court decides, the case will become moot," environmental attorney Marsh Smith said.

DOT officials hope to finish the bypass by June 2005 just in time for the 2005 U.S. Open in Pinehurst. Opponents of the U.S. 1 bypass have another court date in early March, where they will talk about the project's impact on water quality.