June 25, 2008 — Federal officials emphasized the fine line between public access and environmental damage Wednesday regarding the planned Tranberg Road construction in the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge.
The 2-1/4 mile dirt road from the refuge entrance to the parking lot near the beach is pocked with huge ruts, making it treacherous going for most vehicles.
"In making road improvements, officials had to make sure that it did not disturb the habitat of least terns and nesting turtles," said Eric Beightel, environmental protection specialist from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), at a public information meeting in the refuge headquarters. After an environmental assessment report a second public meeting will he held later this year, and work is tentatively scheduled to begin in late 2009.
"We are here today asking residents their concerns, making impacts known and taking comments," said Beightel.
In order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act, the FHA has to prepare an environmental assessment with input to help determine what impacts the project may have on natural and cultural resources of the area. NEPA also requires federal projects for transportation improvements to document the analysis and make the information public before implementation. Preliminary design plans and other general information regarding the project were set up for viewing by those in attendance. Attendees were given a public meeting comment form to provide comments to be mailed to the FHA in Sterling, Va.
Also proposed is a parking area by the park headquarters and other locations. The parking area will cause less impact as people will be able to park there and take a bus to the beach, said refuge manager Mike Evans.
"On busy weekends there can be as many as 100 cars parked along the road," Evans said. "The road will be engineered to get the buses and emergency vehicles in. It will be easier to manage and provide safety and security."
"We will be very careful and diligent, leaving as minimal of a footprint as possible," he said.
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