Watershed Assessment and Protection Planning – For A Highway Project? The US 411 Connector Experience
Ashley, David M.
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The Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) US 411 Connector Project in Bartow County, Georgia is the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by Jordan, Jones & Goulding (JJG). The project area includes sub-watersheds of Pettit Creek and Nancy Creek, and studies of the creeks determined that habitat was present for the federally-protected Cherokee darter. Also, because the project area is in the Etowah River basin, terms of the proposed Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) apply to the project. In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other resource agencies, GDOT authorized JJG to prepare a watershed assessment for the sections of the Pettit Creek and Nancy Creek watersheds that would be potentially affected by the construction of the U.S. 411 project. Also, an Indirect and Cumulative Impact assessment was performed that looked at potential future impacts to the watersheds beyond the direct project impacts. Dr. Byron Freeman of the University of Georgia was consulted regarding studies he had previously performed on Cherokee darters in the vicinity of the project, and what the biological implications were for various levels of imperviousness. As a result of the studies, the project was modified to reduce both direct and indirect and cumulative impacts. The number of bridges over waterways was increased, as well as the requirements for stormwater detention and management. These and other mitigation actions have led to workable solutions to Cherokee darter issues in the US 411 project area.