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Bridge project threatens rare mussel

Madison – A bridge replacement  project over the La Crosse River could result in the “incidental taking”  of a mussel listed on the state threatened species list.

The bridge replacement  is part of the causeway construction of Highway 108 in La Crosse County, and the  state-threatened Buckhorn mussel could be affected. The state Department of Natural  Resources is preparing to permit the state Department of Transportation’s “incidental  taking” of the mussels that may result from causeway construction.

The  existing Highway 108 bridge over the La Crosse River will have to be removed prior  to the construction of the new bridge. WisDOT needs to build a temporary causeway  to remove the existing bridge deck and piers.

A single state-threatened  Buckhorn mussel was found at the bridge site in 1999. However, the site’s aquatic  habitat is of poor quality and contains only a small number of common mussels  that do not represent a diverse or abundant mussel assemblage.

DNR endangered  resources staff determined that efforts were made to minimize impacts to the species;  the taking is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of  state populations of the Buckhorn mussel and the action has benefit to the public  safety that justifies the action.

The DNR is expediting the public comment  phase because the occurrence of the Buckhorn mussel at this site was reported  late in the project’s permit review process and the anticipated impact to the  listed species is very low. Meanwhile, WisDOT is holding construction until the  project is authorized.

WisDOT augments contractor Web site

The state  Department of Transportation added a new component to its contractor extranet  Web site that allows companies to view payment information on projects dating  back to 1998.

After obtaining an ID and password, contractors can look at  and download past payment vouchers, as well as past bid letting reports and information.  Dave Castleberg, in WisDOT’s Bureau of Highways, said the extranet is meant to  be a “one-stop shop” for contract information, and the bureau has pulled  together items that had been scattered on WisDOT’s public site and its password-protected  bidding site.

The ability to view vouchers, he said, should allow everyone  involved in a project to stay up to speed on payment questions.

“It  provides information to subcontractors and suppliers to see when their items of  work are completed,” Castleberg said. “It will help contractors keep  in tune with the prompt payment issue.”

The site is available at www.dot.wisconsin.gov/business/engrserv/bid-letting-information.htm.

Comments  sought on $8.4 billion job

The Army Corps of Engineers will next week field  public comments on its massive $8.4 billion plan to restore and manage the Upper  Mississippi River.

The June 9 meeting in La Crosse is one in a series of  forums the Corps of Engineers has planned for the Upper Mississippi area, which  runs from Cairo, Ill., to St. Paul, Minn. The Corps has proposed a 50-year project  to better manage the 37 locks and dams along the 1,200-mile route.

Gov.  Jim Doyle has asked the Corps to strike a balance between the river’s commercial  and recreational uses. Doyle added that the outcome of the Corps’ final plan will  be “profoundly important” for the entire region.

The Mississippi  River is the third-largest drainage basin in the world and drains 41 percent of  the nation’s water.

The meeting begins at 2 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in  La Crosse.

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