TDOT proposes to fill wetlands in Hwy. 91 area

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Tennessee Department of Transportation has submitted an application to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Nashville to fill in some wetland areas along State Route 91 in conjunction with ongoing roadway construction.
   Wetlands are important to many species of birds and mammals, which rely on them for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding. Wetlands also help to moderate global climate conditions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
   Under the proposed construction project, TDOT plans to build 2.355 miles of additional lanes along Highway 91 from State Route 37 in Elizabethton to west of Green Valley Road.
   The new construction would consist of four 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders, a 50-foot median, and 18 feet from the edge of the shoulder to the ditch centerline. The plan calls for filling in and permanently upsetting 0.631 acres of wetlands while temporarily impacting another 0.363 acres. In exchange, TDOT plans to deduct 1.65 acres in credits available to them from the Shady Valley Wetland Mitigation Bank. Temporary wetland impacts would be lessened by returning the areas to their original elevations, planting perennial rye and trees.
   As part of the Highway 91 project, a large pond near the Carter County Rescue Squad building at 105 Iodent Way will be affected. Rock fill obtained from road and drainage excavation will be used along the northwest edge of the pond. The proposed work is not expected to affect the Davis Branch stream channel, which flows into the pond.
   According to the Corps of Engineers, the National Register of Historic Places has been consulted and no properties listed in or eligible for the National Register are known to be located in the proposed work area.
   Unless public comment on the notice is received documenting that significant sites or properties exist which may be affected by the work, or documenting that a potential exists for the location of significant sites or properties within the permit area, no further cultural resource investigations will be conducted.
   Based on TDOT's information, the work will not destroy or endanger any federally listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitats.
   Before a permit can be issued, certification must be provided by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Division of Water Pollution Control that applicable water quality standards will not be violated, in accordance with the Clean Water Act.
   The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on evaluation of probable and cumulative impacts resulting from construction activities on the public interest. All relevant factors will be considered in issuance of the permit, among them: conservation, economics, aesthetics, environmental concerns, wetlands, fish and wildlife values, floodplain hazards, considerations of property ownership, and the needs and welfare of the people.
   The Corps of Engineers is seeking comments from the public on the Highway 91 project, which will be used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment, and if warranted, an Environmental Impact Statement. An Environmental Assessment will be prepared by the Corps prior to a final decision on the permit request. Comments also will be used to determine the need for a public hearing.
   Any person may request, in writing, that a public hearing be held and must back up the request by citing specific reasons on the need for a hearing.
   Comments or requests for a hearing must be received by the Corps on or before Aug. 16. Statements received will become part of the record and will be considered in the final determination.
   Address all comments to the attention of: Carl R. Olsen, Nashville District Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Branch, 3701 Bell Road, Nashville, TN 37214.
   In addition to Corps and state provisions, Tennessee Valley Authority requires TDOT to employ best management practices to control erosion and sedimentation, as necessary, to prevent adverse aquatic impacts. It is not necessary to comment separately to TVA, however, if desired, comments also can be mailed to: Frank B. Edmondson, Tennessee Valley Authority, Land Management Team, Heritage Federal Bank Building, Suite 218, 4105 Fort Henry Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663-2250.