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Release Date: 06/16/1998
Contact Information: Elizabeth Higgins, (617)918-1051 Leo Kay, (617) 918-4154

BOSTON -- The Connecticut Department of Transportation's Route 6 expressway proposal would cause severe impacts to valuable wetlands and wildlife habitat in central Connecticut, would violate the federal Clean Water Act, and should not be granted a permit, the Environmental Protection Agency told the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday.

In a letter to Colonel William Pratt, district engineer of the Corps, John P. DeVillars, administrator of EPA's New England Office, urged denial of the federal permit CTDOT needs to build the new road. Yesterday was the deadline for agency and public comments to the Corps on CTDOT's application for a permit.

"Fixing the safety problems on Route 6 can and must be done without ruining one of most environmentally valuable landscapes in central Connecticut," said DeVillars.

He emphasized that of the four types of solutions to the Route 6 problem -- upgrading the existing road, building an expressway south of Route 6, building an expressway north of Route 6, or building an expressway that is partly north, partly south -- EPA would only oppose one: an expressway entirely north of Route 6. He pointed out that a variety of upgrade options could resolve the safety problems on Route 6 while causing minimal environmental harm and disruption to adjacent properties.

CTDOT's proposes to build a 12-mile-long, four-lane divided expressway from Bolton Notch through Coventry to Windham, entirely north of Route 6, on nearly the same alignment as the one for which the Corps denied a permit in 1989. It would destroy 44 acres of wetlands, cross several key tributaries of the Hop River, and fragment hundreds of acres of intact wildlife habitat.

The Corps of Engineers denied the permit in 1989, after EPA, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others objected based on environmental impacts and the availability of less damaging alternatives. Since that time, DeVillars and his staff have attended dozens of meetings and written many letters urging CTDOT to adopt other alternatives.

For more than a decade EPA has warned CTDOT that an expressway entirely north of Route 6, especially one in the same corridor as the one denied a permit, would unacceptably harm a valuable and irreplaceable part of Connecticut's environment and would not qualify for a permit.

"CTDOT's endless pursuit of an expressway that it has known for so many years is a nonstarter -- leaving Route 6's safety problems unaddressed all the while -- is plainly wrong from both an environmental and a safety standpoint," said DeVillars.

The Corps of Engineers, which administers the Clean Water Act's wetland permit program, may issue permits for projects that involve filling wetlands and other aquatic resources only if the projects comply with EPA's regulations under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The law gives EPA the authority to veto a project if EPA concludes that the project would cause unacceptable impacts.