Local News

Mussels May Be Potential Roadblock To Proposed Clayton Bypass

Posted Updated

CLAYTON, N.C. — Clayton is growing, and traffic has overgrown Highway 70, so engineers came up with a solution -- the 7-mile Clayton Bypass that will flow straight into a new Interstate 40 interchange. However, there is a "small" problem.

The dwarf wedge mussel could stop everything in its tracks. The mussel, that is on the

federal endangered species list

, is found in Swift Creek right in the path of the bypass.

State Department of Transportation officials said the vehicle count on Highway 70 through Clayton is usually higher than the count on I-95 at the other end of Johnston County. Some people say it does not make sense to let a tiny creature like the dwarf wedge mussel stand in the way of all these drivers, but the state says it has no other choice.

"The dwarf wedge mussel is on the federal endangered species list. It is a list put out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so in this case, we are beholden to them, we have to do what they tell us," said Brian Long, of the state Department of Environmental Health.

Officials say if the mussels cannot be moved, the bypass may have to move. Construction may not start until 2005 or later on the bypass originally planned to open last year.