The Indiana Department of Transportation began clearing land today on properties along the I-69 route in Southwest Monroe County after a judge ruled Thursday that INDOT does have a right to be on the land, even though it is owned by a private citizen.
INDOT is bringing bulldozers in to make room for core drilling machines which will determine the composition of the top soil. Those core samples will be analyzed by INDOT when making a decision on final road composition for the interstate.
INDOT had already cleared trees and brush on Philip Long’s property earlier this year but did not proceed with other neighboring properties because of the pending lawsuit. Long says the heavy equipment has destroyed a large section of his land, and erosion threatens even more of it.
“We’re all on hillside, and the water runs down hill and with this exposed dirt, it just erodes,” he says.
INDOT Spokesperson Cher Elliot says INDOT is following all EPA regulations and vows to protect landowner’s property.
“We respect the rights of the property owners,” she says. “We’re doing our job and following all the guidelines put before us by federal and state and officials, as well as we are keeping in mind that this is their personal property. We respect that and we will respect their property as well while we are working.”
Long admitted that excavators have worked around his large trees, and none have been destroyed so far.
Elliot says once the core sampling is complete; a team will come for each of the properties to restore any damage the heavy equipment caused. But, Long says more than a month later, that team has yet to arrive.