Corps of Engineers issues bypass permit, so lawsuit will be filed
This week the West Fayetteville Bypass issue has arrived at a significant turning point. Fayette County has obtained a permit under Clean Water Act (CWA) for the road project. Therefore, the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition has initiated the first steps within the federal court system to stop the project as planned.
When they first learned the details of the proposed alignment of Phase II of this road, the impacted property owners tried everything they could to find the logic in this planning process. For many of those homeowners, planning for the road was well under way before they had ever heard of this project.
It turns out that inclusion of this roadway in the list of projects in the 2004 SPLOST was like a government-run scam, a bait-and-switch.
They said, “If you don’t like the traffic problems in Fayetteville, vote for the new tax and we will fix it.” Just enough votes bought that argument and we are paying for it now.
If you voted yes for that first SPLOST you probably assumed that if the county was going to build a bypass it would really relieve traffic congestion in downtown Fayetteville. But the scam worked well as their road plan has a permit and not once has there been any evidence that traffic will really be diverted away from Fayetteville.
Their scam continues as they now are calling it “Veterans Parkway.” In my opinion, that is one of the most dishonorable things that has ever happened to me as a Vietnam veteran.
They could find many projects that would really honor the veterans of this country but instead they choose a deceptive road that benefits only developers, destroys natural beauty of the county and all at the expense of the taxpayers. Clearly they hope adding “Veterans” to the name will make you think twice before you object to this disaster of a project; after all it is for our veterans. What a bunch of — you pick the right word.
In November of 2008, the commissioners heard from a lot of citizens who urged them to take a fresh look at the plan as something was not right. It has been two years since we have tried to get the county commissioners to respond and still nothing to answer the question of “why here?” Instead the response was either silence or total disdain. As it became apparent that the county didn’t care what anyone thought, it followed that stronger action by those citizens might become necessary.
Earlier this year, despite all of the information about how wrong this project was, the county applied for a CWA permit to build the road. It took seven months but finally the Corps issued a permit.
Just a few years ago, the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency would not have issued this permit. Evidently, somewhere along the way, the procedures used to implement the CWA have changed and now the federal reviewers no longer include a requirement that the applicant (Fayette County) provide evidence that there is a real purpose and need for a project. All our government officials have to do is say they want a road and the federal officials will not question why before they issue a permit.
That leaves only two options for the homeowners: let the county do what they want and lose their homes or take legal action. So federal court will soon be contacting the county and the legal struggle starts.
The Coalition’s expectation is that the court will find that the CWA has been violated and order the Corps and Fayette County to revisit the entire plan. In other words, start over just as we recommended two years ago.
[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]