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Bug delays W.Va. highway construction

September 04, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

An eyeless, white bug stood in the way of progress.

Preliminary work on the last section of the new, four-lane W.Va. 9 being built between Martinsburg and Charles Town, W.Va., was delayed after someone found a federally listed threatened crustacean in an abandoned well in Leetown, W.Va., officials said.

But a state Division of Highways official said Tuesday that he was told by a representative of the federal government that the discovery posed no problem, and work on the section of highway will continue.

Someone found a Madison Cave isopod in the well in Leetown, according to Bill Shanklin, area engineer for the Division of Highways, and Norse Angus, a transportation analyst manager for the Division of Highways.

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It was not clear who found the isopod, although it would have been someone with expertise on the issue, Angus said.

The Madison Cave isopod is an eyeless, unpigmented crustacean that exists in deep groundwater or subterranean lakes, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is not known how the species reproduces, and its feeding habits also are a mystery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

The Madison Cave isopod is believed to exist only in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and it was listed as a threatened species in 1982, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

After the discovery in the Leetown well, advertising for contractors on the section of the four-lane stretch of W.Va. 9 between Kearneysville, W.Va., and Van Meter Road in Berkeley County was delayed, Shanklin said.

A study followed that involved pulling information from an environmental impact statement on the highway project, which showed the new highway would not affect any water resources on which the isopod depends, Angus said.

"We've had environmental clearance on it for quite a while," Angus said, referring to the widening of W.Va. 9.

"We're trying to be good stewards of the environment," Shanklin added.

Shanklin said the discovery delayed advertising for contractors to finish the last segment of W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town, but he did not believe it would delay construction of the approximately 2.5-mile section of the road.

Angus said he did not know how widespread the existence of the Madison Cave isopod might be in the Eastern Panhandle.

State highways officials referred additional questions about the crustacean to U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials in Elkins, W.Va.

Officials in that office could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

W.Va. 9 is a major east-west highway through the Eastern Panhandle, and plans to upgrade the road to handle growing amounts of traffic have been in the works for years.

Last week, the first section of the four-lane road opened to motorists.

State highway officials last week advised westbound travelers to exit the new highway at Currie Road because of anticipated congestion concerns, specifically at the intersection of Leetown Road and Charles Town Road (old W.Va. 9), Shanklin said.

The Currie Road exit is the first interchange beyond what is considered the Charles Town bypass.

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