- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - An environmental assessment for a highway interchange at the entrance to the Clearwater River Casino is expected to be ready for public comment by December.

The Lewiston Tribune reports ( https://bit.ly/1nfXT9T ) the Nez Perce Tribe’s plan to build the interchange on U.S. Highway 95/12 has had challenges, from funding the estimated $14 million project to the logistics of constructing a broad overpass in the river corridor.

Mary Beth Frank, the Nez Perce Tribe’s transportation planner, said the environmental review should be done by the end of the year.

A worry is how the project affects waterfowl nesting habitat in the Upper Goose Pasture, three miles east of Lewiston, next to project site. The tribe previously had an environmental assessment completed, but failed to secure a federal highway grant and the project has sat idle.

Gina Baltrusch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the project would require building a new access road to the habitat management unit, with safe highway access. The nesting site for Canada goose would also have to be protected.

“It is highly used by waterfowl, and the birds are disturbed by noise while nesting,” Baltrusch said.

The highway would be widened to make room for an on-ramp, which would require vegetation removal from the edge of the habitat management unit.

Frank said funding for the interchange has been the biggest issue.

“We keep searching for grants that will provide that large of an amount,” Frank said. “That’s where the challenge will be.”

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