Bypass foes: We’ll file federal lawsuit
Members of the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition say they will not be deterred from trying to stop construction of Phase II (the northern portion) of the roadway even though Fayette County received federal clearance for the project last week with a permit issued under the Clean Water Act. Next stop for the coalition will be federal court.
“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,” coalition member Dennis Chase said in a letter to The Citizen. [Dennis Chase’s column about the lawsuit decision is here.]
Contacted Monday, Chase said the coalition is being represented by environmental law firm Stack & Associates, with paperwork expected to be filed in federal court later this week.
Chase said he believes the merits of the coalition’s position will be evident once presented to a federal judge. In noting the coalition’s perspective, Chase told The Citizen that, “When they first learned the details the proposed alignment of Phase II (north side) 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.”
The coalition initially hoped to depend on an interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to stop the Phase II project. But that hope did not come. The county last week essentially obtained the go-ahead for the project when it received a permit under the Clean Water Act for the construction.
And that approval does not sit well with Chase and the coalition.
“Just a few years ago, the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency would not have issued this permit,” Chase said. “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.”
So for the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition, Chase said there was little alternative left other than taking the matter to federal court.
Federal law says you have to have a purpose and a need, and it says the proposed plan is the only way to accomplish that need, Chase emphasized.
“This will be the sticking point I hope the judge will use to say he doesn’t see the justification for the project,” Chase said.
Phase II of the bypass extends north from Sandy Creek Road with plans calling for the road to tie in to West Bridge Road at Ga. Highway 92.
Meantime, Phase I of the bypass that extends from Lester Road south of Ga. Highway 54 to Sandy Creek Road will open on Oct. 28.