After an extensive application review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Walla Walla District issued a draft permit, (Friday, Sept. 21), to the Idaho Transportation Department for the Sand Creek Byway.
The Department of the Army draft permit was issued with conditions to minimize impacts to Sand Creek and to mitigate wetlands proposed to be filled for construction of the project. If ITD agrees to the permit conditions, representatives will sign and return the draft to the Corps, at which time the Corps will issue a permit allowing ITD to conduct work in Sand Creek and adjacent wetlands necessary to construct the Sand Creek Byway Project.
"We received substantial public comments supporting the project during the course of our review of this permit application,” said Brad Daly, chief of the Corps’ Walla Walla District Regulatory Division.
“In addition, we also received substantial public comments raising concerns, issues and objections with the project. We believe our permit decision balances the needs of the public and community with protection of the aquatic resources of Sand Creek and its adjacent wetlands,” he said.
The project involves construction of a new section of U.S. 95 starting at the north end of the Long Bridge and instead of curving to the left to enter Sandpoint, the new highway will continue straight across Sand Creek on a new bridge. It will then follow the railroad tracks along the east side of Sand Creek to a point where it will reconnect with the existing U.S. 95/U.S. 2 just north of the existing bridge over Sand Creek north of Sandpoint.
The project is part of a four-phase effort to improve U.S. 95 between Sagle and the Kootenai Cut-Off Road. It is designed to reduce traffic congestion and increase public safety by eliminating through traffic, especially truck traffic, from the streets of downtown Sandpoint.
The permit will authorize construction of a new bridge near the mouth of Sand Creek, as well as a pedestrian/bicycle pathway along the eastern edge of Sand Creek.
“We have included several permit conditions that we believe will avoid or minimize adverse impacts to Sand Creek during construction and provide mitigation for the wetlands proposed to be filled to construct the project," Daly said.