Citing wetlands, Sierra Club tries
to stop highway project
Corps of Engineers asked to reject permit
By Dave Sheeley
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published August 31st, 2004
The Sierra Club is attempting to halt the expansion of
Highway 164 in Waukesha County next year by asking the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit needed for
"We want to make Highway 164 safer, not wider,"
said Brett Hulsey, senior Midwest representative of the
Sierra Club in Madison.
The state Department of Transportation has asked the
corps for a permit to fill about nine acres of wetlands
to expand the highway from two lanes to four from Swan
Road, in the City of Pewaukee, to just south of Highway
VV in Sussex. The project will cost about $12.5 million.
Dale Pfeiffle, an environmental protection specialist
with the corps, said his agency will evaluate the Sierra
Club's request that the permit, which Hulsey says is to
destroy wetlands, be rejected. The club submitted the
request last week.
In addition to the club's input, the corps has received
about 40 comments from residents, groups such as the Highway
J Citizens Group and others. Almost all oppose giving
the state the corps' permit, Pfeiffle said.
The Sierra Club also asked the corps to conduct a public
hearing on the Department of Transportation's permit request
Filling the wetland, a type of land disappearing in southeastern
Wisconsin, would cause flooding problems, water pollution
and destroy habitat for animals, the Sierra Club says
in its 10-page request.
For more than two years, the club has been critical of
the Highway 164 expansion, saying it isn't needed and
will cause additional traffic and pollution. In 2002,
the club called the widening one of the worst transportation
projects in the nation.
Transportation department officials, however, have said
other alternatives to widening Highway 164 were explored
and wouldn't relieve increasing traffic on the road.
The agency plans to replace the wetlands with new ones
elsewhere in the state. And, as part of the project, the
state agency plans to build storm water detention ponds
and habitat for threatened species, such as the Butler's
The Transportation Department is asking for Corps of
Engineers permission to use nearly 86,000 cubic yards
of fill near tributaries to Pewaukee Lake and Sussex Creek.
That would allow widening the highway from Swan Road to
just south of Highway VV - the second of three phases
of the highway's entire widening project scheduled for
completion in 2006.
The first phase, with a price tag of about $9.5 million,
is under way. The expansion of Highway J from Rockwood
Drive, just north of I-94, to Swan Road is scheduled to
be competed by November, said Bruce Barnes, a DOT project
The estimated $5.5 million third phase involves reconstruction
of the Highway VV and Highway 164 intersection, along
with improvements to the highway north to Howard Lane
Hulsey said the Transportation Department has not considered
practical alternatives to the Highway 164 project, such
as using the four-lane Highway 74 about a mile east.
But Brian Bliesner, a DOT project supervisor, said developing
that alternative route would destroy more wetland than
the Highway 164 project.
He said land around the corridor is developing, causing
an increase in traffic and a need for a wider, safer road.
"Waukesha County is developing and has been developing
for the last 20 years. The traffic is going to be there
whether we widen the road or not," Bliesner said.