Environmentalist group fears roadwork plans

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 23, 2010 

MANATEE — A local environmental group, ManaSota-88, has objected to an application by the Florida Department of Transportation to build stormwater ponds near the lush Braden River in connection with a road-widening project, predicting an “unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment will occur.”

In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ManaSota-88 Chairman Glenn Compton said FDOT’s plan for widening State Road 64 East would trigger adverse impacts on water quality, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife.

In a June letter, Compton wrote that the group “strongly recommends the Army Corps of Engineers deny” FDOT’s application. He requested a public hearing, but said Wednesday he had not heard if his request would be granted.

He contended the FDOT plan would pollute the river and harm wildlife. He argued the ponds should be located elsewhere.

FDOT is proposing a $11.6 million widening from four to six lanes, spanning a 2.5-mile area roughly from the river, west of Carlton Arms Boulevard, and continuing to just west of Interstate 75, Cindy Clemmons, public information director for FDOT’s District One, told the Herald last week.

Plans call for three 12-foot-wide travel lanes — or 36 feet of pavement in each direction — plus a 5-foot-wide bike lane and outside curb and gutters, drainage swales and sidewalks in both directions, Clemmons said.

FDOT is proposing to build one triangular stormwater pond on either side of the road near the river, on right-of-way that it already owns, according to an FDOT report titled, “Final Pond Siting Report Addendum.”

“Each alternative was assessed for site size required, hydraulic feasibility, environmental considerations, contamination issues, cultural resources, construction costs, and acquisition costs,” the report said.

Sia Mollanazar, a Manatee County deputy director of engineering, said he had reviewed and approved plans from a drainage perspective, but his job did not include evaluating environmental impacts.

The FDOT’s application to the corps said the drainage plan would impact approximately 3.63 acres of water and impact 0.78 acres of permanent wetland.

“The department has adhered to our thorough environmental processes as well as those of the permitting agencies,” Clemmons said Wednesday.

“The department is currently awaiting a response from the Army Corp of Engineers regarding the permit for this project,” she said.

The FDOT application noted the project area contains habitat of the wood stork and eastern indigo snake, and is within the foraging area of one wood stork colony.

“If a permit is issued, it will include the most recent standard protection measures for the eastern indigo snake, and suitable compensation for the loss of the storks’ wetland foraging habitat,” the application said.

It cited a “compensatory mitigation plan” to offset the loss of the wood storks’ lunch spot, but the “mitigation” area would be located on a different river, the Manatee River.

Scientists told the Herald last year that the Braden River, which provides drinking water to Bradenton, seems in relatively good ecological health so far, despite an increasing human population encroaching upon its wild habitat.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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