November 13, 2008 in Idaho

Injunction sought on byway

Group claims Sand Creek project violates Clean Water Act
From staff and wire reports
 

SANDPOINT – Opponents of the U.S. Highway 95 bypass in Sandpoint have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction halting construction.

The North Idaho Community Action Network filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Idaho on Monday. The filing came a little more than a week after state officials broke ground on the Sand Creek Byway, a $98 million bypass that will route high-speed traffic away from Sandpoint’s downtown.

In court documents, opponents say the project violates the federal Clean Water Act. Building the road and pedestrian and bike path along Sand Creek will damage the aquatic ecosystem by putting 75,000 cubic yards of fill into the creek and its wetlands, according to court documents.

Opponents say removing the pedestrian and bike path from the byway would reduce the harm to Sand Creek and adjacent wetlands. The path could be rerouted through town, they say.

The Idaho Transportation Department said it will fight the injunction.

The 2.1-mile bypass has a history of controversy.

In 2005, the Community Action Network sued to stop the project, but U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge rejected the lawsuit, prompting an appeal. Construction was due to begin this summer, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction, then turned down the appeal in August.

The lifting of the earlier injunction allowed the Transportation Department to start construction. Parsons RCI of Sumner, Wash., won the contract to construct the bypass.


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