By Tim Maloney
HEC recently obtained a copy of the U.S. EPA’s comments on INDOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Section 4 of the proposed I-69 highway.
Section 4 covers 27 miles of roadway from US 231 north of Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center to SR 37 at Bloomington. EPA’s detailed comments highlight many flaws and shortcomings in the state’s study, and rated the DEIS as “EC-2, Environmental concerns-insufficient information”. EPA’s review focused on the water resource impacts of I-69, specifically the destruction or alteration of miles of high quality streams, and the destruction and disturbance of the extensive karst features along the road’s path in Greene and Monroe Counties, stating, “…. the quality of the water resources being lost or modified is not sufficiently discussed.” On karst impacts, EPA stated that INDOT’s DEIS was incomplete in its analysis of:
- impacts to caves, sinkholes, swallowholes and other karst features;
- impacts to underground drinking water supplies near the roadway;
- impacts to cave-dwelling animals which are extremely sensitive to minor changes in cave climate and conditions; and,
- consideration of engineering and construction practices that are effective at reducing environmental impacts in karst areas.
In its Section 4 study, INDOT says that between 87 to 106 karst features will be directly affected or destroyed, however it only surveyed features that can be visually observed. Hundreds of caves, springs and sinkholes are within the Section 4 corridor, and over 1,000 karst features are hydrologically connected with features in the corridor. EPA recommended that a number of additional studies be conducted, and more detailed and expanded mitigation measures be incorporated, before the environmental study can be considered complete.