A 1993 editorial by the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that GDOT lied when trying to build the first leg of the Outer Perimeter. And what was the first leg of that highway? The 411 Connector. Obviously, not much has changed over the past couple of decades.
The 411 Connector court ruling is well worth the read, as it outlines the history of the project and how GDOT lied to landowners. It also details how GDOT failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and applicable regulations.
A local TV news station recently reported that state auditors discovered that the Georgia Department of Transportation is still mismanaging “millions and millions” of taxpayers’ dollars. With the agency spending more than $2 billion of taxpayers’ money every year, the news report concluded that GDOT still does not have “adequate financial controls to prepare and present materially accurate financial statement[s] in accordance with the law.”
Questions about GDOT’s money management should come as no surprise to residents of northwest Georgia, as GDOT is proposing to waste $112 million of taxpayers’ money on a flawed route – Route D-VE – for the U.S. 411 Connector. Not only will Route D-VE cost taxpayers approximately $214 million, but GDOT is continuing to ignore shorter, less environmentally harmful routes that would spare taxpayers a considerable expense. Plus, an alternate route would avoid legal delays and take no longer to construct.
The audit also revealed that GDOT moved money among its 15 to 18 separate programs without legislative approval – which is illegal. State auditors also said the disorganization of various state transportation programs is so significant that “neither GDOT nor the auditors can say whether the agency spent its money as the legislature intended last year.”
If you remember, GDOT’s money management problems became a political issue in 2009 and former Governor Sonny Perdue said, “People went to jail over similar things in Enron and other corporations, and those were private corporations.” Apparently, little has changed; meanwhile we are waiting for someone to hold GDOT accountable for its unlawful ways.
In closing, GDOT’s continued financial incompetence and wastefulness is costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Unfortunately, our elected officials – who preach fiscal conservatism – have their heads buried in the sand on this issue.
Bird and Wildflower Enthusiasts Will Learn About Diverse Wildlife at Euharlee Conservation Easement on Dobbins Mountain
The City of Euharlee and Cartersville Ranch today announced two educational hikes at the Euharlee conservation easement on Dobbins Mountain – one focused on wildflowers and the other on bird species. The wildflower and birding hikes are scheduled for later this month. Invitations have been extended to members of the Georgia Botanical Society, Georgia Native Plant Society and Atlanta Audubon Society.
The Coalition for the Right Road, an organization of Georgia citizens committed to making sure the U.S. 411 Connector is built with minimal environmental impact and at the lowest cost to taxpayers, is participating in the outings. Public access has been limited to protect refuge habitat and species.
The announced educational hikes are consistent with the major purpose of the conservation easement, which is to preserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. Also, the hikes are consistent with the conservation values, as set forth in the recorded conservation easement document.
“The upcoming field trips provide an opportunity to show others why the city designated the conservation easement as a significant wildlife refuge,” said Trish Sullivan, city manager of the City of Euharlee. “People who are especially interested in native plants and birds will be able to see what a unique resource the Euharlee wildlife refuge is and why it should be preserved.”
Jim Allison, a leading expert on Southeastern wildflowers, butterfly enthusiast and botanist for 13 years at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), will lead the wildflower hike at Dobbins Mountain. He will also identify and educate attendees about the unique butterflies that live in the refuge. In 2011, Allison conducted plant surveys on 12 separate visits to the Euharlee wildlife refuge, and observed and photographed a total of 88 diverse native flowing plants within the refuge. His most important find was the Georgia aster – discovered in bloom at Dobbins Mountain last fall.
The Georgia aster is a state-protected and federal candidate species, and the population found at Dobbins Mountain is one of the largest in Georgia. The Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia DNR characterized the new discovery as significant. Allison also discovered a population of native orchids – the state-protected Pink Ladyslipper – within the borders of the refuge. A variety of spring wildflowers is expected, including blue-star, pussytoes, Jack-in-the-pulpit, toothwort, green-and-gold, Quaker ladies, yellow stargrass, spring iris, violet wood-sorrel, five-fingers, Piedmont azalea, rue-anemone, bellwort, at least five species of violets (including bird’s-foot), and many more.
Joshua Spence, who has 16 years of experience in bird identification in north Georgia, will lead the birding hike through the wildlife refuge. Last year, Spence completed 24 trips to the refuge and he documented the presence of 89 different bird species. More than half of those species were neotropical migratory birds that breed in the United States and during the winter in Mexico, Central America and South America.
One of the rarest bird species not on the Endangered Species List, the Cerulean Warbler, was discovered in the wildlife refuge and is known to spend the winter in South America. Of the 89 species found within the wildlife refuge, 10 are of special conservation status and 46 were found nesting or exhibiting nesting behavior. In addition, bald eagles are observed at Cartersville Ranch approximately 35 times a year, and were seen several times last year during wildlife surveys.
“It is easy to see why the Wildlife Resources Division of Georgia DNR certified that the Euharlee conservation easement, which encompasses 106 contiguous acres of hardwood forest, satisfies three conservation purposes under Georgia’s rules,” said Henry Parkman, attorney for Cartersville Ranch, LLC. “First, the refuge protects wildlife habitat through the conservation of high priority species and habitats. Second, the refuge protects steep slopes, which will reduce erosion. Finally, the refuge protects headwater streams and their buffers, which will maintain and enhance water quality in the area.”
About the Coalition for the Right Road
The Coalition for the Right Road (CORR) is an organization of Georgia citizens committed to making sure the U.S. 411 Connector is built with minimal environmental impact and at the lowest cost to taxpayers. CORR is opposed to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s current plans for the 411 Connector – Route D-VE – because of its exorbitant cost, inefficient interchange and environmental destruction. The coalition is committed to raising awareness of shorter, cheaper and less destructive routes, and is open to anyone who shares these concerns. For more information, visit www.coalitionfortherightroad.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.