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Corridor H runs through a very culturally and environmentally sensitive area of West Virginia. In preparation for the completion of Corridor H, the West Virginia Division of Highways has completed one of the largest mitigation plans ever developed for the state. Every aspect of the route will be studied, streams will be evaluated, archaeological sites will be identified, endangered species will be protected, natural beauty will be preserved and noise levels will be kept at a minimum.

Mitigation is the process of lessening the severity of project impacts to the natural, cultural and/or human environment. The required steps involved in mitigation activities are:

AVOIDANCE of the sensitive resource as much as possible;
MINIMIZATION of impacts to the extent possible; and
COMPENSATION for any unavoidable impacts.

The West Virginia Division of Highways conducted extensive avoidance and minimization measures during development of alignments prior to the mitigation process. Some of the mitigation measures employed in the design and construction of Corridor H include stream enhancement, acid drainage mitigation, reclamation, wetland replacement and studies of archaeological or historical sites.

Although the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) has avoided and minimized impacts to the extent practical, and where not practical, has developed an extensive Mitigation Plan for Corridor H, these plans must necessarily remain flexible to allow for changes in design and route as well as changes that must be made during the various stages of construction. Agencies that are involved in the mitigation process are:

Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Natural Resources Conservation Service
National Park Service
National Natural Landmarks Office
U.S. Forest Service
WV Department of Natural Resources
WV Department of Environmental Protection
WV State Historic Preservation Office
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Keeper of the National Register

The mitigation process is completed in each "design section" of the highway. During several steps in the process, the various agencies listed above will be given an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed mitigation plans and participate in field views as the plans develop. The agencies are updated on the effectiveness of mitigation plans at WVDOH agency coordination meetings.

In addition, the WVDOH is utilizing a full-time environmental monitor who reports monthly to the State Highway Engineer, ensuring that contractors are properly constructing, installing and/or maintaining required mitigation measures and erosion and sedimentation control measures. Included in the Environmental Monitor's responsibilities are monitoring streams; confirming adherence to state water quality standards, acid drainage, collection and analyses of samples; ensuring proper permitting; and identifying cultural resource issues. He ultimately assures that mitigation commitments developed in the design process are carried through the construction phase of the project.

General mitigation measures include a number of issues, but most concerns are focused on the following:

A. Wetlands - Two large multi-function wetlands have been designed and constructed. Both of these are complete and have been functioning years before any wetlands will be filled. One wetland is located within the Monongahela River watershed just northeast of Elkins off US 219. The other replacement wetland is located in the Potomac River watershed, northwest of Moorefield. These two large wetlands replace a total of 37 acres of small wetlands impacted by the project. These wetlands were generally small sites of less than one-quarter acre each. These areas are being monitored to assure their success as functioning wetland systems.

B. Aquatic wildlife habitats - Efforts were made in each local project in which perennial streams (streams that support aquatic life) were involved in mitigation to improve conditions by stabilizing banks, reducing sedimentation of pools and providing shade and vegetation important to aquatic life. A total of 21 Habitat Improvement Areas were identified, representing over 35,000 linear feet of stream improvement. The goal is to improve stream habitat rather than replace it.

C. Terrestrial (Land) wildlife habitats - Vegetation areas provide habitat for amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and bird species. Again, the goal was to protect and enhance these areas. In addition, some unique habitats will be purchased for preservation by a team of wildlife biologists. The purchase price of that property will be approximately $1.8 million.

D. Soil stabilization and seeding - Seed mixture for medians, shoulders, waterways and mowable areas is predominantly Kentucky 31 fescue and red fescue. Seeding for cut and fill slopes is composed of Kentucky 31 fescue, red fescue and crownvetch. Alternative mixtures will be used to make greater use of native or naturalized species with equal or greater stabilization characteristics. Fill slopes, embankments, excess excavation and borrow sites will be seeded and mulched at the completion of each 1.5 meter lift or every two weeks, whichever occurs more frequently. Soil stabilization will be required between October and February and between June and July, outside of normal periods of seeding and mulching.

E. Reclamation - Cover and species will be evaluated prior to construction activities to provide data useful in determining when performance standards have been achieved. Reclamation will be monitored in the short term and in the long term. This monitoring will include visual observations of soil stability, condition and effectiveness of mulching and runoff and erosion control measures, as well as a quantitative evaluation of revegetation success.

F. Acid drainage - It is possible that construction crews will encounter acid producing materials, either naturally occurring or remnants of past mining operations. WVDOH will require additional mitigation measuring during both the design and construction phases to minimize acid drainage. In sections where acid producing materials are identified, the contractor will develop an Acid Producing Materials Handling Plan to be approved by WVDOH prior to construction. This Plan will address measures to avoid and minimize the production of acidic drainage during construction. In areas where past mining has resulted in acid production, WVDOH will employ design features for strategic remediation of those existing problems through special ditch designs using buffering materials and encapcilation of acid producing materials to the extent practical.

G. Cultural and Historical Preservation
See Culture

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