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Archive for Friday, June 25, 1999

S SLT LETTERS DRAW CRITICISM

June 25, 1999

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Douglas County Commissioner Tom Taul says one of Rep. Dennis Moore's letters to a federal agency regarding the South Lawrence Trafficway "sounds like it was written by one of the protesters."

Congressman Dennis Moore has sent letters to two federal agencies questioning their thoroughness concerning the South Lawrence Trafficway.

The letters, particularly one addressed to the Federal Highway Administration, drew criticism Thursday from Douglas County Commissioner Tom Taul.

"To me the tone of the letter sounds like a letter being written by one of the protesters" opposing the trafficway, Taul said.

The letter from Moore, D-Kan., whose 3rd District includes most of Douglas County, urged the EPA to involve itself in completion of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, a federally mandated study of the proposed trafficway's impact on the surrounding areas.

To the Federal Highway Administration, his comments were more specific.

He asked 10 pointed questions, targeting trafficway-opponent issues like the possible existence of American Indian burial grounds in the Baker Wetlands, the impact of a trafficway on spiritual and historic sites at Haskell Indian Nations University, the possibility that the wetlands is a habitat for endangered species, and the lack of study into a trafficway route south of the Wakarusa River.

David Geiger, the Kansas administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, said the letter raised no new issues. Geiger said a response to Moore's letter was being prepared.

"That won't change our approach to trying to resolve the outstanding issues at this point," Geiger said.

Dale Armstrong, a spokesman for the EPA office in Kansas City, Kan., said a response from the agency had been sent Wednesday or Thursday.

Moore spokesman Mark Wilson said the congressman is not taking sides, nor is he critical of how the proposed highway has been handled by the Federal Highway Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency.

"He is simply showing his interest as a representative of people on both sides of this issue," Wilson said. "He wants to make sure all the procedures are followed so the final result, whatever it might be, has some credibility."

Taul said county officials had met with Moore during several visits he had made to Lawrence.

Each time, Moore indicated he wanted to work with the county on the trafficway, Taul said.

Yet Taul said he received copies of Moore's letters thirdhand.

"I'm disappointed he wrote those letters and never contacted the county," Taul said. "To me, it wasn't a very good start of working with the county."

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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