Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Proposed Incidental Take authorization for the I94 North South Freeway reconstruction

Editor’s Note: Wisconsin’s endangered species law (s. 29.604, Wis. Stats.) requires the Department of Natural Resources to notify the public when it proposes to authorize the incidental taking of a state Endangered or Threatened species.

MADISON - The Department of Natural Resources proposes to authorize the "incidental taking" of the Seaside crowfoot (Ranunculus cymbalaria) and Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), both state-Threatened species, resulting from the reconstruction of the I-94 North South Freeway in Kenosha and Racine counties.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation proposes to reconstruct the existing I94 corridor from the Mitchell Interchange to the Illinois State Line. The reconstruction includes new interchanges and reconstruction of frontage roads within the project corridor. The work will be accomplished in stages by location and over time. The frontage roads and interchanges in Kenosha and Racine counties are scheduled for construction in 2009.

Surveys for rare plants along the project corridor resulted in finding populations of the state threatened Seaside crowfoot in proximity to the CTH C interchange in Kenosha County. A mitigation plan was developed that included conservation strategies for the long-term survival of the species through relocation and monitoring. Six colonies were identified in 2006 and an additional colony was found in 2008. A habitat assessment was conducted to identify a potential Transplant Site based on hydrologic and soil characteristics, plant community, and ownership of the site for future protection. Colonies with few individuals to efficiently transplant or high number of invasive species were not relocated to prevent the spread of invasive species.

A habitat assessment was conducted for reptiles along the project corridor in Kenosha and Racine counties and habitat for Blanding’s turtles occurred along the Root River in Racine County and in six locations in Kenosha County from the DesPlaines River south to the state line. Exclusionary fencing for turtles is required at each of these areas to avoid impacts to Blanding’s turtles.

Through the incidental take consultation process, avoidance measures were incorporated for the two species through initial project design and modification. Development of conservation measure to minimize impacts to the Seaside crowfoot involved development of a relocation plan to translocate plants out of the project disturbance area and both shot-term and long-term monitoring fro conservation of the species. Conservation measure for Blanding’s turtles include the use of exclusionary turtle fencing in areas of suitable habitat.

The department has determined that the proposed project will minimize impacts to the Seaside crowfoot and Blanding’s turtle by adhering to the conservation measures described within the Jeopardy Assessment, and is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of the state population of Seaside crowfoot or Blandings turtles or the whole plant-animal community of which they are a part; and has benefit to the public health, safety or welfare that justifies the actions.

Copies of the jeopardy assessment and conservation measures are available on the Incidental Take page of the DNR Web site or upon request from Rori Paloski at the above address. Public comments will be taken through March 6, 2009.

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