Student safety trumps mussels

An editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  What’s more important? The safety of students who must travel each day across a partially collapsed section of Gardner Road to reach PikeView High School or the protection of freshwater mussels who call a nearby river home? You would think the answer to this question would be a no-brainer. Obviously, the road should be immediately repaired to ensure the safety of students and other traveling motorists in the area.

But not so fast. The state Department of Transportation says it is not allowed to repair the road until an environmental study is completed to determine the potential impact of the road repair work to the freshwater mussel population that lives in the nearby river. And if the environmental study determines it is necessary, the freshwater mussels may have to be relocated before the repair work can begin, according to West Virginia Division of Highways District 10 Administrator Tom Camden.

Really? The protection of freshwater mussels trumps the safety of students and traveling motorists? If that’s the law, then the law needs to be changed.

According to Camden, the DOT is required to do a freshwater mussel survey because the area in question is known for its freshwater mussels. Camden is hoping the DOT’s environmental department can begin the freshwater survey before the week’s end.

A 20- to 30-foot section of the road was lost earlier this month. Highway crews believe recent rainfall contributed to the partial collapse of the road. At the moment, only one lane of Gardner Road is open. And motorists must watch for oncoming traffic before attempting to cross the area near the collapse.

Parents and motorists who live in the area are concerned — and rightfully so. School buses cross the road everyday, along with dozens of motorists. There is an obvious safety concern. And some are afraid the road will further collapse.

That being said, we have nothing against the freshwater mussel population. They, too, are one of God’s creatures, and we believe it is important to protect species that may be endangered. But when the safety of humans, and children in particular, is at risk, common sense must prevail…

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