RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Endangered animals are in the path of a major highway expansion project in wake County. Millions of dollars are going toward saving them and keeping the Interstate 540 completion project going.
Native endangered mussels like the Dwarf Wedgemussel sit right where the planned Southeast Extension would go to complete the I-540 outer loop.
Arthur Bogan, Researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, said the multiple endangered species help filter waterways, but their numbers are dwindling.
“Freshwater mussels are in peril,” Bogan said. “We’ve lost about 30 species to extinction already, so anything we can do to keep the rest of them from going extinct.”
In 2019, the North Carolina State Transportation Department settled with multiple environmental protection groups in an effort to protect the animals but continue the interstate project.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is paying $3.9 million to outfit a new facility for the endangered animals at the A. E. Finley Center at Yates Mill County Park.
North Carolina State University researchers will spearhead the conservation effort from there.
“Human population growth has necessitated the need for additional infrastructure and, unfortunately, when that happens, then there’s impacts to our natural systems,” NC.. State professor Dr. Gregory Cope said. “In this case, we’ve tried to balance that.”
During the Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting, officials are looking to approve the $3.9 million contract with Cooper Tacia General Contracting Company to start summer with a goal of completing the work by July of next year.