State Tackles Nelsonville Bypass Vegetation Issue

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A consultant has been hired to assist in putting together a plan for correcting problems in getting vegetation established on some areas along the Nelsonville bypass.

TranSystems was hired for the job, according to David Rose, spokesman for District 10 of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Rose said the company will work with ODOT and the Wayne National Forest to seek solutions. Much of the bypass goes through the national forest.

The vegetation problem areas are on slopes, some of which have eroded. At least part of the problem is the condition of the soil in some areas, said Anthony Durm of District 10.

Due the extensive excavations for the bypass, lower-quality subsoils were brought to the surface, Durm explained. Also, the area was mined in past years, which not only disturbed the soils but also impacted soils through mine acid drainage.

“Not the kind of stuff you would want in your garden,” Durm said of the soils in some areas of the bypass.

“We know that over time those slopes (with vegetation problems) will heal themselves,” Durm said, but added that ODOT wants to find a fix sooner rather than later.

The bypass is in the final stages of construction and is scheduled to fully open on Oct. 1. The west end of the bypass opened a year ago.

“We’re very concerned about erosion areas,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Gary Chancey.

He said the Forest Service is working with ODOT to find solutions, and Wayne experts — including experts in soil science, hydrology, botany, forestry and engineering — have studied the problem areas and will be making suggestions.

Chancey said the Forest Service experts are not limiting their assistance to just the portion of the bypass that goes through the national forest.

“We do have assurances (from ODOT) that it will be addressed in the future,” Chancey said of the vegetation problem. “We’re confident of that.”

He said one area that needs replanted is habitat for the grizzled skipper, an endangered butterfly. Chancey the original habitat planting was not successful.

Also, Chancey noted that plans are being made to plant thousands of Virginia pines along the bypass.

“We’re coordinating that now,” Chancey said.

The Forest Service experts have been examining the areas starting 10 feet from the ditch lines of the highway, Chancey said, and are not addressing the median.

Much of the median on the section of bypass that is currently open to traffic is without grass.

Durm said that initially fast-growing grasses are planted that will, over time, start to dwindle. However, he said grass will become established in the median, although it may be necessary to replant some areas.

“That will be a grass median the whole way through,” Durm said.