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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Formal consultation completed on Section 5 of the I69 interstate project in Indiana.

Region 3, September 30, 2013

The Bloomington, Indiana Ecological Services Field Office has recently completed formal consultation on the Indiana bat for Section 5 of the I-69 Interstate extension project in southern Indiana with the Indiana Department of Transportation  and the Federal Highway Administration. Section 5 of the project consists of upgrading an existing four-lane state highway (SR 37) beginning southeast of the City of Bloomington and continuing to SR 39 south of Martinsville in Morgan County, Indiana. It is approximately 21 miles in length. It is part of the larger, 142-mile extension of the I-69 highway from Evansville to Indianapolis in Indiana. Three Indiana bat maternity colonies are known to occur in the Section 5 project area.

 

On 24 August 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Revised Programmatic Biological Opinion for the proposed 142-mile extension of I-69 from Evansville to Indianapolis, Indiana. The revised biological opinion and a subsequent letter from the Service (dated 18 May 2007) established a two-tiered consultation process and section-specific review process for each of the six I-69 Sections, with issuance of the revised programmatic biological opinion being Tier 1 and all subsequent Section-specific project analyses constituting Tier 2 consultations. (In May 2011 and July 2013 the Tier 1 opinion was amended, however this did not affect the tiered consultation process.)
The Tier 2 Biological Opionion for Section 5 of I-69 considers impacts associated with Federal Highways' and state Department of Natural Resources' preferred alternative to construct, operate, and maintain a new interstate facility within the Alternative 3C corridor in Monroe and Morgan Counties, Indiana. The Proposed Action for Section 5 of I-69 includes the following: 1) Use approximately 1,300 acres of right-of-way of which roughly 980 acres is existing right of way; 2) Clearing of approximately 255 acres of forest and other trees (>3” diameter-at-breast height/DBH) from the right-of-way while Indiana bats are not present (i.e., primarily between 16 November and 31 March due to proximity to numerous Indiana bat hibernacula); 3) Filling/converting of 13 acres of wetlands, including emergent (3.5 ac.), forested (5.3 ac.), scrub-shrub (1.1 ac.), and open water ponds (2.5); 4) Impacting approximately 85,000 linear feet of stream habitat (much of which is already impacted); 5) Relocating numerous utilities and billboards that are situated within the right-of-way for the Preferred Alternative. Based on the estimated location of these anticipated relocations, and the adjacent land uses, forest impacts from utility relocations are expected to be 75 acres and billboards, 15 acres, and 5) Impacting approximately 110 known karst features. The proposed action also considers numerous conservation measures and mitigation commitments pertaining to the Indiana bat including seasonal tree-clearing restrictions, karst avoidance and minimization measures, development of educational resources, incorporating wildlife crossings, bridging entire floodplains were possible, mitigation for all wetland impacts, and significant mitigation for impacts to upland forests and Indiana bat habitat including permanent protection of Indiana bat hibernacula.
Upland forests impacted by the I-69 Evansville-to-Indianapolis project will be mitigated at a 3:1 ratio. This commitment, made in the Tier 1 final environmental impact statement, and reaffirmed in the Tier 1 record of decision, considers upland forests as all those not classified as wetlands. Mitigation may be in the form of planting unforested areas (with a minimum goal of 1 to 1 replacement) and/or protecting existing forests by fee simple purchase, permanent protective easement, or a combination of actions with a maximum goal of 2 to 1 protective measures or preservation. The 3 to 1 ratio will be achieved for the overall I-69 Evansville-to-Indianapolis project; the ratio for an individual Tier 2 section could be higher or lower than 3 to 1. For Section 5, combined mitigation amounts to approximately 1,100 acres of upland forest and wetland habitat restored and/or preserved.
 

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov