The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 1, March 2006
federally infeasible project is illegal under our national environmental protection laws.

The sole segment built to date stretches from the D.C. Beltway west to Front Royal, VA. Next segment in the pipeline? From West Virginia into eastern Kentucky (the “Pike-Mingo” segment). The London to Somerset segment (aka “Pulaski/Laurel”) is at the stage of having a Draft Environmental Impact Statement under preparation, available soon for public review and comment.

Deemed a project of highest national importance “by the President’s office,” the London to Somerset segment’s greased wheels are moving it forward at a blistering speed.

Additionally, there are some other sneaky segments moving forward – sneaky in that they do not have “I-66” in their names but are actually part of I-66. These include a Bypass segment around Somerset, and a Connector Road accessing the Transpark from I-65 to 31W just east of Bowling Green, on the sinkhole plain a few miles from Mammoth Cave National Park (part of the “Warren/Edmonson” segment). The route from there west to the Missouri line is not yet pinned down, but a newsletter sent to local governments by the I-66 Foundation invites sizable membership dues from interested towns across central and western Kentucky.

 A grand place, wild and beautiful

What is the area like, between London and Somerset? It is a grand place, wild and beautiful. The Rockcastle River valley and surrounding sandstone canyons are mist-filled and remote; a trip on the river takes you between tall spires of rock, past silent cliffs and forests. The caves of the Sinking Valley area are

numerous, their interconnections complex and subtle, and they are rich in species, many rare, and some new to science. The surface and subterranean waterways, including the incomparable Buck Creek, are of high quality, presently protected by law from any degradation.

This is no place for a new interstate, with the numerous interchanges proposed, and talk of a shopping center overlooking the Rockcastle River. This wonderland needs to be valued and protected as it is now, and its wildness enhanced – not torn apart by humming lanes of trucks, bright lights, fast food, and motels. The region’s wildness, clean waters, caves, national forestlands, and grand biodiversity already have a value beyond compare, and an ecotourism appeal that the state would be stupid to squander.

And they want to build a … what? Some of the area is already protected, and more protection is needed. The biodiverse Buck Creek watershed is a major focus of The Nature Conservancy’s activities in this part of Kentucky, with detailed information online at TNC’s Kentucky Chapter Web pages. A TNC preserve is located in the northwest corner of the area. The Rockcastle River is a state-designated Wild and Scenic River (note: placing the I-66 river crossing just outside of the W&S designated area is not going to solve that problem!). The Cane Creek Wildlife Management Area is here, as is the Wells Cave Nature Preserve, owned by the National Speleological Society and managed by area cave clubs (information online at the NSS Web site, clickable under NSS Nature Preserves). The Daniel Boone National Forest is here! The incomparable Sinking Valley karst drainage is here (see more on this below); and the Kentucky State Nature Preserves

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