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Sierra Club petitions DEC to deny wetland permit
By Lee Chowaniec
Sep 25, 2006, 00:02
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The Sierra Club has joined residents in voicing opposition to the unwarranted filling in of a Class I wetland along Transit Road in Lancaster for the purpose of widening the road in a location that was not considered in the original plans and/or is not included in the application for permit, but whose construction would favor the development of a proposed truck stop.

Besides voicing concern on the legitimacy of the improvement in question, the Sierra Club expresses serious reservations regarding the location of the proposed mitigation location and the replacement ratio.

The Sierra Club correspondence to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reads as follows:

Jeffrey E Dietz
NYSDEC Region 9 Headquarters
270 Michigan Ave
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 851-7165
r9dep@gw.dec.state.ny.us

RE: Transit Rd., Lancaster LA-5 wetland permit application # 9-1499-00069/00002

Dear Mr. Dietz,

NYS DEC is considering a mitigation deal for about an acre of Class I wetland along Transit Road in the Town of Lancaster for creation of an acre of wetland in the Town of Cheektowaga. Public input for the NYS DOT project is fast approaching, as the deadline is September 29, 2006.

As simple as this might seem, the wetland they want to swap is part of a much larger Class “A” wetland. One of the apparent reasons that the Department of Transportation (DOT) appears to want to do this is because this part of the wetland has frontage on Transit Road and a developer wants to use it as the main entrance to a proposed development.

This same developer has a bad history of destroying wetlands, has filled that area with construction fill then denied that he did it, and when caught, denied knowledge of wetlands and refused to remove the illegal fill.

Folks from that neighborhood have told our group that the wetlands that the NYSDEC is considering for this project are owned by a development company and are Transit Road frontage south of Interstate 90.

Wetlands sell for about $2,000 an acre according to neighboring residents, residential property sells for $40,000 an acre and commercial property along Transit Road is worth many times that amount. They feel that NYSDEC should not allow the destruction of such a valuable wetland parcel for a mere 1:1 wetland replacement ratio. They believe DEC should seek a much wetland higher replacement ratio so that the developer will be paying for the windfall that NYSDOT, as lead agency and applicant, is creating for this developer.

If this wetland is to be relocated, it should not be moved offsite, but to the developer’s adjoining property. This developer currently owns or controls 40 acres on that project site that would make perfect wetland replacement in the neighborhood that is being impacted (that already suffers from flooding). All but 10 acres owned by the developer on that site are currently deemed wetlands.

A Class “A” wetland mitigation should be 10:1 or at least a 5:1 replacement ratio. The developer should be willing to give up about ten acres of currently developable land zoned “GB”, on their adjoining property.

As far as the drainage ditch part of the proposal there are several points that should be addressed:

* The storm drains proposed are not part of the original project. The NYSDOT project is supposed to be the widening of Transit Road from thruway exit 49 at Depew northward to Main Street. The area in question begins several hundred feet south of the project and hence is outside the parameters of the project.

* NYSDOT is under no obligation to repair a developer’ s mistakes. The taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the drainage that the developer needs for their “Pilot Truck Stop Project.”

* The developer has repeatedly filled in the floodplains at that site so it is not the responsibility of the NYSDOT to fix their mistakes. Frankly, if the developer at Transit and Genesee would merely remove the fill that they introduced into the floodplain after the FIRM maps were first adopted, their new Pilot Truck Stop Project would have no drainage issues.

In conclusion, neither aspect of the project addendum is part of the original project. This permit should be denied until NYS DOT and/or the developer (who is actually behind this) agrees to both on-site and significantly higher wetland replacement ratio.

Very truly yours,

Liz Kaszubski
NYS Wetlands Chair, Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is encouraging others to write to the DEC to voice their concerns regarding this permit application and the adverse impacts on the Class I wetland.

The permit application reads as follows:


Applicant: NYS Dept of Transportation50 Wolf RdAlbany, NY 12232

Facility: Transit RoadTransit Rd - Main St (ST Rte 5) to I-90 Exit 49Cheektowaga, NY 14225

Application ID: 9-1499-00069/00002

Permit(s) Applied for: Article 24 Freshwater WetlandsSection 401 - Clean Water Act Water Quality Certification

Project is Located: Cheektowaga, Erie County

Project Description: In conjunction with the reconstruction of NY Route 78 (Transit Road) south from NY Route 5 (Main Street) to the New York State Thruway Interchange Exit 49, it is proposed to reconstruct a storm sewer within the regulated 100 foot wide adjacent area of the Buffalo Airport (LA-5) Wetland, and to construct a portion of a storm water pond/wetland and wetland mitigation area in the regulated 100 foot wide adjacent area of the Pfohl (LA-9) Wetland in the Town of Cheektowaga. Both the LA-5 and LA-9 Wetlands are class I wetlands.

The storm sewer reconstruction is located along the eastern shoulder of Transit Road in the Town of Lancaster. As part of the project there will be impacts to 0.72 acre of previously constructed open water mitigation ponds and 0.20 acre of isolated forested wetland. To compensate for those wetland impacts, 0.92 acre of new wetland is proposed to be created along Ellicott Creek north of NY Route 33 (Genesee Street) in Town of Cheektowaga.

State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Determination:
Project is an Unlisted Action and will not have a significant impact on the environment. A Negative Declaration is on file. A coordinated review was performed.
SEQR Lead Agency: NYS Dept of Transportation

Comment

What is really unique here is that the DOT acting as lead agency on this project only wants to mitigate Class 1 wetlands at a 1:1 ratio? They are okaying their own project with belief that they will get no grief from another regulatory agency, for whatever reason(s).

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