The Buffalo National River Partners recently presented Arkansas Department of Transportation botanist Joe Ledvina to discuss wildflowers of the region and mitigation of effects on the ecology due to highway construction.
Ledvina said one misconception about mitigation plans is that they are put in place at the exact site of the construction project.
On the contrary, he explained, those mitigation sites are often miles away from the construction sites. They are meant to offset any impact on the environment during construction by creating new plots to enhance the environment.
In creating mitigation sites, officials must make sure all regulatory agencies are consulted during the process. One aspect is determining if natural habitats and wetlands that took centuries to evolve can be adequately replaced with ones artificially engineered over a span of a few years.
As part of the Natural Resources Division of ArDOT’s Environmental Department, regulation of waterways falls under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Those waterways include:
-Ephemeral streams, which are ones that are very short lived.
-Intermittent streams, which are not permanent streams and are not ephemeral.
-Perennial streams, which are free flowing even if not necessarily navigable all year long.
Current proposed changes to Waters of the United States would remove ephemeral and intermittent streams from such regulation.
Ledvina explained that ArDOT has purchased 6,000 acres of land for mitigation banks. They are scattered around the state and some cover as much as 900 acres.
Ledvina was asked if the project to replace the current bridge over the Buffalo National River is covered under some sort of mitigation bank. He admitted he is still new to the department and wasn’t completely familiar with the project.
However, ArDOT District 9 staff engineer Stacy Burge said the bridge replacement project does not require mitigation.