(GREENE COUNTY) - The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is restoring or preserving 4,100 acres of wetlands, streams and forests in Greene and Monroe counties as part of the Interstate 69 project's unprecedented environmental commitments.
This includes planting or preserving more than 1 million trees, many of which are adjacent to Martin State Forest and other managed properties. INDOT has also preserved four priority caves that are critical habitat for 34,000 endangered Indiana bats.
To view photos of a wetland and stream bank restoration project along Plummer Creek in Daviess County, visit the "I-69 Section 4 Mitigation" album on the INDOT Southwest Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/INDOTVincennesDistrict/photos_albums.
The I-69 project is being built in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and other state and federal laws. Under agreement or permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies, INDOT is restoring or preserving wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat at a ratio of three times the impacts of the I-69 project. The I-69 project's unprecedented efforts to minimize environmental impacts also include wildlife crossings and a 4,400-foot-long bridge spanning the floodplain at the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.
There are a limited number of suitable "mitigation" properties within the same watershed or endangered wildlife habitat. Because these unique properties are by definition outside the I-69 footprint, INDOT did not use its eminent domain powers but instead negotiated purchase of the 4,100 acres from willing sellers, either outright or as conservation easements. Conservation easements are recorded with the deeds at the county courthouse so they remain in place as properties change owners, and the owners continue to pay property taxes.
The new Interstate 69 between Evansville and Indianapolis is widely regarded as a key component to the future economic vitality of southwestern Indiana, and will connect an entire region with improved access to jobs, education and healthcare. The 142-mile I-69 corridor was divided into six independent sections with the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Study, which was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in March 2004.
The first 67 miles that opened for business in November 2012 - under budget and years ahead of schedule - now save motorists more than 30 minutes in travel time when compared to other routes between Evansville and Crane. Construction is underway on all 27 miles of I-69 Section 4 between Crane and Bloomington, which is expected to open to traffic in phases during late 2014 and 2015.
INDOT encourages landowners and loggers operating near I-69 to avoid cutting trees between April 1 and November 15 of each year to avoid possible harm to the endangered Indiana bat during its roosting season. Timber buyers and agents must be licensed under Indiana law, and must pay landowners for timber harvested. Any person or entity offering to harvest trees within these restricted time frames is not working for or on behalf of INDOT. Landowners may verify that a timber buyer or logging company is properly licensed by searching the Indiana Online Licensing website at http://mylicense.in.gov.
For more information about I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis, please visit www.i69indyevn.org.
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