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Local

Endangered bumblebee temporarily stops construction on Longmeadow Parkway in Algonquin

ALGONQUIN – The potential presence of an endangered bumblebee species in the Longmeadow Parkway project area has temporarily brought construction on the road to a halt. 

Work on Longmeadow Parkway near Randall Road in Algonquin started Monday morning; however, later in the afternoon, crews had cleared out following an emergency motion that issued a temporary restraining order for the project. 

The restraining order, issued by Judge Sharon Coleman in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, is in effect until 5 p.m. April 28. 

Plans for the controversial project include building a four-lane, 5-mile toll road and a four-lane Fox River bridge crossing, which proponents of the project have said is needed to reduce traffic congestion in northern Kane County.

The Stop Longmeadow group filed a lawsuit Monday against members of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Kane County, according to the motion. 

While multiple claims are made about the project’s alleged violations of federal statutes, the temporary restraining order is solely concerned with the rusty patched bumblebee, a species on the brink of extinction that the Stop Longmeadow group claims was found in the project area, according to the motion.

The bee species was listed as endangered on March 21 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the motion. A few weeks later, the Kane County Division of Transportation issued a release that said construction on Longmeadow Parkway was to start Monday. 

Since the late 1990s, the bee species’ numbers have declined by nearly 90 percent, according to the motion, and the bee is only found in a handful of locations in the country, including Kane County.

“As such, the Longmeadow Project has significant and permanent ramifications to not only the local population of the bee, but on the nationwide survival of the species itself,” the motion states. 

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies are required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “to ensure that actions they authorize, fund or carry out … are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of species listed as endangered,” the motion states.

The Longmeadow project has received about $14.5 million in federal funding, according to the motion.

When the Federal Highway Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact saying that the Longmeadow Parkway project would have no new significant effects on the environment, the bees were not considered, according to the motion.

The instant motion did not ask for the Longmeadow project to be “entirely scrapped,” the motion states, but it asks for a temporary halt so defendants can assess the project’s effect on the bee species. 

A status hearing for the case is set for 11 a.m. April 28.

Steve Coffinbargar, assistant director of transportation with the Kane County Division of Transportation, said Monday afternoon that the department had received the order and would “absolutely” comply. He declined to comment further. 

Algonquin Village President John Schmitt, a longtime proponent of the Longmeadow Parkway project, said no bees have been found in the project area, so this doesn’t mean it’s over.

“All it does is cost the taxpayers more money,” Schmitt said. 

A separate complaint filed Monday against the same defendants claims the Finding of No Significant Impact issued by the Federal Highway Administration for the project was flawed, and asks for further evaluations. No action had been taken on this complaint as of Monday afternoon. 

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