KSTP, 4 April 2017
A variety of bumble bee recently added to the U.S. Endangered Species List is at the center of a push to stop construction of a new sewage treatment plant in Afton.
A nonprofit environmental group called Citizens for Valley Creek wrote a letter to the city of Afton and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking for a temporary halt to construction of the new sewage treatment facility.
“We hired an expert in environmental protection for endangered species to survey this 25-acre site,” said Jim Golden, a member of the nonprofit. “And in his opinion the area is prime habitat for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, and he even stated that a sighting of the rare species took place less than a mile from here recently.”
Golden said the prairie grasses at the site produce wildflowers like Milkweed and Snapdragons, which the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee pollinates and needs for survival.
“The sandy soil at the site is also ideal for this particular bee to nest in, and even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given this site its highest designation of habitat likelihood for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” Golden said.
Golden said his group is not asking for much.
“All we want is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the city of Afton, to pause this for a week or two and make a determination on the site in regard to qualifications for protection,” he said.
Afton city leaders told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they have followed proper procedure and received their permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was placed on the Endangered List March 21, 2017.
“It is our assumption the Corps of Engineers had made a determination that the site is not critical habitat for this particular bumble bee, and that our project was environmentally sound and could move forward,” said Afton City Manager Ron Moorse.
Moorse said the sewage plant will cost approximately $2 million and there would be no added cost to build if it were delayed. However, he said, it might cost more if the city were forced to halt construction and spend additional money on a new piece of land if the federal government ordered them to do so.
“Right now, we have no plans to stop this project and move it to a new location, and we do not intend to do that unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to step in and order us to do it,” Moorse said.
Attempts to reach the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for comment Monday were unsuccessful. Citizens for Valley Creek said it would take the issue to court and ask for an injunction if the fish and wildlife service did not act.