A 67 mile stretch of Interstate 60 from Evansville to Crane opens this evening Monday night. For each acre of forests or wetlands that was destroyed to make room for the highway, another acre had to be replenished. Officials at Indiana’s Department of Transportation say they have far exceeded that federally mandated standard.
More than 1,100 acres of property is protected as result of I-69 construction in sections one through three. Most of this land is private. Some of it is in protected habitat areas, some is incorporated into the Patoka Wildlife Area, and some just runs alongside privately owned parcels of land.
According to INDOT, about 300 acres of natural forests and wetlands were destroyed during the construction of the first three sections of I-69 from Evansville to Crane.
By law, that means the state would need to mitigate that same amount. But INDOT spokesperson Cher Elliott says the state committed to replenishing land on a 3:1 ratio.
“They’ve been extremely conscientious of the environmental side and INDOT has made an unprecedented commitment to this project to protect and ensure that the nature is disrupted as little as possible,” says Elliott.
The state is spending more than $77 million on mitigation efforts for the I-69 project.
Former Hoosier Environmental Council policy director Andy Knott says still the basic process is flawed because people cannot recreate nature.
“When you mitigate a project, the quality of the habitat that you are creating is not going to be as good as the quality of the habitat you are destroying. Is it better than nothing – yes It’s not gonna dramatically reduce the impacts on habitat.” says Knott.
Mitigation is done before or during road construction so the process is already underway in Section 4 of I-69 that stretches from Crane to just south of Bloomington. That section of I-69 is scheduled to open to traffic by the end of 2014.