HAVELOCK — The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that aims to stop construction of the Havelock Bypass, citing the negative effect it could have on longleaf pines and wildlife along the proposed route.
The bypass is expected to be a four-lane highway with a median that aims to improve traffic around Havelock. According to the N.C. Department of Transportation website, the project cost is $221.26 million.
Area leaders told the News-Times earlier this month they were looking forward to the construction and completion of the bypass that would help travel times to and from the Crystal Coast and bring more economic opportunities to the area.
The Federal Highway Administration announced its Record of Decision two weeks ago that gave approval for the bypass to move forward and work bids to be solicited. Construction was expected to start in the winter of 2017. A SELC press release says the documents were filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of N.C., on behalf of the Sierra Club, which is an environmental organization.
The lawsuit states the group is concerned the bypass is unnecessary and would harm the forest and wildlife that resides in the area.
“The planned Havelock Bypass would cut through rare, century-old longleaf-pine stands in eastern North Carolina’s Croatan National Forest,” states a press release from the SELC.
“The needless destruction of century-old longleaf pines for an unnecessary and costly road is not only wrong, it’s illegal,” Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney with SELC, said in the press release. “The Croatan was established decades ago to protect a landscape that is central to North Carolina’s history and provides irreplaceable habitat to the rare plants and animals that depend on the forest.”
According to media reports, the lawsuit could not be filed until the Record of Decision had been announced.
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