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The Southern Environmental Law Center last week filed suit on behalf of conservation groups in United States District Court challenging the environmental review for the controversial Garden Parkway toll highway.
“The negative impact of the Garden Parkway to Lake Wylie, the South Fork and its wetlands cannot be overstated,” said Lakekeeper Ellen Goff of Lake Wylie. “These public waterways are critical to area residents, local municipalities and commercial concerns, providing drinking water and supporting a robust water recreation economy. The waters of the Catawba River basin must be protected from projects that would irrevocably degrade them.”
The Catawba Riverkeeper and Clean Air Carolina say the North Carolina Turnpike Authority and the Federal Highway Administration performed a defective analysis of the proposed toll road and presented a misleading picture of the costs and benefits of the project.
“The proposed toll road would significantly increase pollution of the Catawba River particularly Lake Wylie, as a result of construction activities, run-off from the highway and increased sprawl,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Richard Gaskins. “Lake Wylie already has problems with trash, sediment and various pollutants, and the proposed toll road would make the situation much worse.”
The lawsuit comes just months after conservation groups were successful in challenging the Monroe Bypass, another North Carolina Turnpike Authority Project.
The proposed Garden Parkway 22-mile toll road would run through Gaston County at a cost of $930 million. The conservation groups say the North Carolina Turnpike Authority has failed to show construction of the road will improve congestion on existing roadways, such as I-85, and could shift job growth out of state to South Carolina.
“The Charlotte region continues to be plagued with air pollution problems affecting the health of our residents,” said June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina. “As we work to improve the quality of life in the region, the one thing we don’t need is a 22-mile highway bursting through our rural countryside increasing vehicle emissions and sprawl.”
In May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rebuked the Authority after finding it had made fundamental blunders in its environmental review and repeatedly misrepresented key facts to the public.
“Once again, the N.C. Turnpike Authority has failed to be honest with the public,” said senior attorney Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The agency has not explained why the taxpayers and their children are being saddled with generations of debt to pay for this destructive leviathan that serves none of the purposes claimed by the project proponents.”