The Indiana Department of Transportation is moving forward with construction of I-69 from Crane to Bloomington. Part of the process involves extensive environmental mitigation.
INDOT invited the press to tour some of its environmental mitigation sites in Greene County on Thursday. By law the state must mitigate land on a 3 to 1 ratio. That means in section 4 where 1,100 acres have been destroyed for I-69 construction, the state is required to mitigate 3,300 acres.
INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield says his department is exceeding that number. “Normally when you impact a forested area, you replant on a one to one ratio,” Wingfield said. “Because this is a habitat for the brown bat, we did that on a three to one ratio and that’s why there’s so much more land that has been purchased either as conservation easements or outright for the mitigation.”
INDOT is spending more than $77 million on mitigation – nearly half of that is in section 4, which runs from Crane to Bloomington. The goal is to return the property to its natural state before agricultural development changed the landscape.
In addition to planting trees, INDOT has also acquired and preserved wetland areas as well as cave formations that are home to the endangered Indiana Bat.
However, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads co-founder Thomas Tokarski says the damage done by I-69 can never be truly mitigated. “We know that a lot of the mitigation sites are going to be located directly next to the highway itself which means they’re degraded from the start,” Tokarski said. “And so there’s no way that these sites – they’re feel good measures for the regulatory agencies, but in terms of making up for the destruction of the project, it simply will not do it.”
The first 67 miles of I-69 from Evansville to Crane opened in November. Section 4 is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.