Concerns About Carolina Crossroads Project

The South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration have been working on a project called Carolina Crossroads with the goal of reducing traffic and improving mobility in the I-20/26/126 corridor. The project team has identified 49 possible alternatives they believe could achieve those goals (view the alternatives here). The next part of the process is for the agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will address all the impacts of the possible alternatives.  Of the 49 proposed alternatives Congaree Riverkeeper believes five may have significant impacts on local rivers.

Comments on the proposed alternatives are currently being accepted and must be received by Friday, November 18th.  You can submit comments on the Carolina Crossroads website by clicking the “Add Comment” tab for individual alternatives, or you can email comments to info@CarolinaCrossroadsSCDOT.com. If you submit general comments you may want to state that any alternative selected must avoid impacts to rivers and that all concerns about water quality, recreational use, rare, threatened and endangered species must be addressed.  You may also state that you specifically oppose any or all of the five alternatives listed below.

Alternatives with potentially significant impacts to rivers:

Lower Saluda River

  • I-20/126 East-West Connector

    • Direct Connector
    • Bush River
    • Directional Interchange

       

 

Broad River

  • Outside Corridor

    • Northern Expressway
    • Northern Arterial

     

Below are some of the concerns Congaree Riverkeeper has about the proposed alternatives. You can discuss these concerns in your comments.

General Concerns

  • Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species

    • The possible impacts of these alternatives to Rare, Threatened and Endangered species must be considered.
    • Some of the federally listed endangered and protected species that live in or near riverine environments and may occur in the project area include:

      • Bald Eagle
      • Atlantic sturgeon (The Broad River below the Parr Shoals Dam was just proposed as “unoccupied critical habitat” for the Atlantic Sturgeon by the National Marine Fisheries Service in June).
      • Shortnose sturgeon
      • Carolina Heelsplitter
    • Some of the federally at-risk, state listed, and state conservation priority species that live in or near riverine environments and may occur in the project area include:

      • American eel
      • Blueback herring
      • Robust redhorse
      • Broad River spiny crayfish
      • Carolina darter
      • Piedmont darter
      • Seagreen darter
      • Highfin carpsucker
      • Quillback
      • Santee chub
      • Striped bass
      • Yellow lampmussel
      • Roanoke slabshell
         
  • Maintaining Navigation

    • Tens of thousands of people travel on the Broad and Saluda Rivers using canoes, kayaks, motorboats and inner tubes every year.  Several of the alternatives involve river crossings that could impede or block navigation on these rivers.  If any of these alternatives are chosen the ability to navigate these rivers must be maintained.
       
  • Past Issues With DOT Bridge Construction Projects

    • A past DOT project, the replacement of the Broad River Road Bridge, resulted in damage to the river environment, damage to a rare species, and serious safety threats for river users.  From 2011 through 2015, on multiple occasions, large timber mats (aka crane mats) and a large metal barge were allowed to wash downstream of the construction site.  This construction debris littered several miles of the Broad River, damaged a population of rare Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies, and led to the near drowning of multiple river users.  If any alternative that involves a river crossing is chosen DOT must make the protection of the river environment and the safety of river users a top priority and must ensure that the contractor complies with all safety and permit requirements.

Lower Saluda River (I-20/126 East-West Connector) Concerns

  • Consistency with the South Carolina Scenic Rivers Act

    • These alternatives must be assessed to see if they are consistent with the goals and requirements of the South Carolina Scenic Rivers Act.
    • In 1989 the Legislature passed the South Carolina Scenic Rivers Act and in 1991 designated the section of the Lower Saluda from below the Lake Murray Dam to the confluence with the Broad River as a State Scenic River.
    • The Scenic Rivers Act states that:

      • ”The General Assembly finds that certain selected rivers and river segments of this State possess unique or outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, botanical, fish, wildlife, historic, or cultural values. It is the policy of the General Assembly to provide for the protection of these selected diminishing values and to preserve the state's natural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
      • “Scenic rivers must be managed in a manner which best maintains and enhances the scenic values of the river and the adjacent land...”
      • There may be no construction of roads paralleling the river within the limits of a scenic easement or public access area.”
         
  • Impacts to the Future Saluda Riverwalk

    • A greenway extending from the Broad River up to I-26 is expected to begin construction in early 2017 and an extension of that greenway upstream of I-26 has been planned for several years. All three of these alternatives could have significant impacts on current and future greenway projects.
       
  • Impacts to Recreational Use

    • While all three alternatives may impact recreational use of the Lower Saluda, there are very specific concerns about the Directional Interchange alternative.  The Directional Alternative would cross the Saluda River right over two high quality class II rapids (Oh Brother and Ocean Boulevard) and a very popular trout fishing area.  This would reduce the high recreational value of these areas.
       
  • FERC Project Boundaries

    • All three of the I-20/126 East-West Connector alternatives are within the boundaries of the Saluda Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 516).  These alternatives must be evaluated for consistency with the FERC license as well as the 2009 Comprehensive Relicensing Settlement Agreement.
       
  • Floodway

    • Each of the three I-20/126 East-West Connector alternatives would include some construction in the floodplain and floodway, with the Direct Connector alternative almost entirely in the Saluda River floodway.  These alternatives should be evaluated for consistency with local floodplain regulations.  The safety of placing critical transportation infrastructure in the floodway should also be evaluated.
       
  • Stoops Creek Impacts

    • The Bush River alternative places multiple on/off ramps directly over a blue line stream, Stoops Creek.  This alternative would also have construction take place in a stream buffer easement along the creek.

Broad River (Outside Corridor) Concerns

  • Impacts to Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies

    • The Rocky Shoals Spider Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) is a rare aquatic plant that occurs in large streams or rivers at or above the fall line, including the Broad River.  It is currently a federal species of concern and is considered rare by the SCDNR and is among the species tracked by the agency’s Heritage Trust Program.  There is a documented RSSL population at Frost Shoal/Boatwright Island, approximately one mile downstream of the proposed Broad River crossings.  The alternatives that include crossings of the Broad River must evaluate the potential short-term and long-term impacts to this species.
       
  • Impacts to Harbison State Forest

    • Harbison State Forest is a more than 2,000 acre forest managed by the South Carolina Forestry Commission.  It is considered one of the largest urban green spaces inside city limits in the eastern United States.  Two of the Outside Corridor alternatives would place a new highway along the southern boundary of the forest.  These alternatives would likely have significant negative impacts on wildlife, habitat, and recreational use within the forest.
       
  • Stream and Wetland Crossings

    • In addition to crossing the Broad River the Northern Expressway and Northern Arterial alternatives would also cross at least 4 perennial streams, at least 5 intermittent streams, and at least three large wetland areas.  These two alternatives have some of the highest stream and wetland impacts of all the proposed alternatives.

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