Federal agency questions put bypass in limbo
On August 18, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) informed federal and state transportation agencies that it was reconsidering its approval of the proposed Monroe Bypass due to misinformation in the environmental analysis asserting there would be virtually no impact on water quality in the Yadkin River watershed. Without the agency's sign-off, the project cannot move forward.
The FWS's doubts resulted in part from information that SELC provided in our ongoing lawsuit against the N.C. Turnpike Authority and the Federal Highway Administration showing the two agencies assumed the highway already existed when they assessed the impacts of a “no-build” option. That assumption enabled them to assert virtually identical environmental impacts for two drastically different scenarios: building the multi-lane, 20-mile highway with nine interchanges through the Yadkin River watershed, and not building it.
On August 23, when news of its reconsideration of the project went public, FWS sent another letter to the Federal Highway Administration appearing to back away from that position but still expressing serious concerns.
SELC believes that, regardless of the inter-agency tussle, the core issue remains that the environmental analysis for the project was illegally biased.