TDOT settles dispute over wetlands project - WSMV Channel 4

TDOT settles dispute over wetlands project

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ASHLAND CITY, TN (WSMV) -

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace wetlands it destroyed while building a major Middle Tennessee road.

TDOT decided to settle a lawsuit brought by an environmental group that sued because the department didn't replace the wetlands it impacted when building Ashland City Highway years ago.

Under federal law, anytime a construction project impacts a waterway or wetlands, the builder is expected to establish a new stream or wetlands to mitigate the impact.

The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that TDOT wasn't always doing that during construction projects.

For instance, the land along Ashland City Highway was supposed to become an area of wetlands. Environmentalists said the fact that the land was instead filled in could have impacted neighboring homes and businesses during the May 2010 flood.

"Houses, churches, a store, houses over here all flooded. It's my opinion that having lost this wetland meant that the flooding was worse, because there was less flood storage in this area," said PEER director Barry Sulkin.

As part of the settlement, TDOT will create 10 acres of wetlands in Bells Bend Park. TDOT estimates the settlement is worth about $375,000.

The advocacy group also said this lawsuit could have implications for thousands of other similar sites across the country.

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