Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Judge says road project can proceed after being halted to check bees' status

Monday, May 1, 2017

CHICAGO — A federal judge says work can proceed on a suburban Chicago highway on which construction was halted because of concerns it threatened an endangered bumblebee.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said April 28 opponents of work on the nearly 6-mile-long Longmeadow Parkway in Kane County, Illinois, failed to show it put the rusty patched bumblebee at risk.

The plaintiff's bee expert, entomologist Sydney Cameron, failed to show up and testify in support of an affidavit filed with the court.

The judge said Cameron's statement was "not at all definitive." She added supportive testimony offered by the original plaintiff, Geoffrey Petzel, had "limited value."

A Kane County official says the project should get back on schedule with an extra push from construction contractors.

Earlier in April, Coleman had halted week halted work on the until at least April 25. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported the judge's order was in response to a filing by project opponents who said the roadway could affect the rusty patched bumblebee.

According to court documents, the bumblebee was found in the Brunner Family Forest Preserve along the planned route for the parkway, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported.

The holdup would have boosted the project's costs by tens of thousands of dollars, said Carl Schoedel, the county's transportation director.

"Every day that we're not working during the construction season is a potential delay to the project," Schoedel told the newspaper.

The rusty patched bumblebee in March became the first bee species in the continental U.S. added to the federal endangered list. Once common in the Midwest and parts of the East Coast, it has disappeared from nearly 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years.

Along with other bees, it plays a crucial role as a pollinator of crops and wild plants.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which deals with endangered species, was not involved in the parkway dispute, said Louise Clemency, a supervisor in the agency's Chicago field office. But she said the planned route is within an area considered to have a “high potential” for the presence of the bees, which were spotted there as recently as 2012.

The federal agency is providing information to the Illinois Department of Transportation about surveying the planned route for signs of the bees and ways to protect them, such as providing more habitat, Clemency said.

Minnesota's Hennepin County delayed work last month on a 4-mile stretch of a road called Flying Cloud Drive because of concern about the endangered bees. But federal officials visited the area and determined it was not within a high-potential zone for the bees, said Andrew Horton, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The county plans to move forward with the project, spokesman Colin Cox said. It still needs federal permits dealing with issues not related to the bees.   8

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