Endangered bees block highway project

CHICAGO (AP)—A highway in suburban Chicago has become the second Midwest road construction project delayed temporarily because of concerns about possible harm to a bumblebee recently listed as an endangered species.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman this week halted work on the nearly 6-mile-long (9.6 kilometers) Longmeadow Parkway in Kane County, Illinois, 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 could boost 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, is 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.

Even if the bees are found there again, it’s “highly unlikely” they would prevent the road from being built although minor alterations might be needed, she said.

Minnesota’s Hennepin County delayed work last month on a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) 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.

 
 
 

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