CINCINATTI, Ind. (WTHI) - A multi-million dollar environmental improvement project is in full swing this spring in southern Indiana and its all tied to construction on I-69.
The highway is already open from Evansville to Crane, and as work on the road moves through Greene and Monroe Counties, woodlands and wetlands are being built to more than replace what is being taken.
The on-going project is making a difference now and in the future.
The construction of I-69 is cutting a swath through the wooded hills of eastern Greene County. The road is the visible part of this project, but state officials say the effort to off-set the environmental problems the road may create is even larger.
"Of the land purchased for I-69, three quarters of it is for mitigation," said Will Wingfield with the Indiana Department of Transportation. "It's an effort to minimize the impact on wildlife habitat, streams and wetlands."
Every time the state takes out a tree for this highway they have to account for it and either save a tree somewhere else or put in a new one. The grand total for section 4 of the highway is one million trees.
The mitigation projects are often on the back roads near the highway. For instance one area has had hundreds of new trees planted. Right now they are seedlings, but eventually they will become part of a new forest.
Down the road is a wetlands project developed under a conservation easement. This former farm field is undergoing a reverse transformation. The creek is being re-routed into a channel that is closer to its original location.
Small structures are now creating ponds and birds are finding the area to their liking.
Of course it all comes with a cost.
"Approximately $30 million in both the land and the construction needed to build the construction," said Wingfield.
A project that is required for the highway to built, but also one that may impact the area as long as the road is around. The project also includes the purchase of caves that help protect 34,000 endangered Indiana bats.
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