Although construction on the Fernan Road reconstruction project was completed this past fall, the paperwork was wrapped up just recently. Recall that KEA and Idaho Conservation League had threatened a Clean Water Act lawsuit regarding numerous violations at the construction site. An agreement was finalized recently with the Federal Highway Administration, the agency responsible for the project, to resolve the claims.
At KEA, we were tipped off to problems at the site by members and neighbors living along Fernan Lake. KEA and ICL performed our own inspections at least five times in 2009 which indicated potential violations of the project’s construction permit. In July 2009, Idaho DEQ inspected the site and issued a warning letter to FHWA regarding violations of water quality standards for turbidity.
As a result of direct negotiations between our attorneys at Gonzaga Environmental Law Clinic and the Federal Highway Administration, major improvements to the project were installed in 2010 to prevent massive erosion and sediment problems our investigation had identified. At ICL and KEA’s request, FHWA hired a certified erosion control specialist to review and improve erosion controls at the site. FHWA implemented best management practices, and trained their contractors and personnel on monitoring and reporting practices and preventing discharges. FHWA also updated its stormwater prevention plan to tighten controls on discharges.
By all accounts, the project in 2010 was greatly improved over the project in 2009. Thanks to our lawyers and our erosion expert and our environmental colleagues. We are pleased to have made a difference.