Inside Southwest

DETROIT, MI—The Detroit International Bridge Company’s proposed second span was the subject of a US Coast Guard’s (USCG) public hearing held last week at the Greater Apostolic Faith Temple on Fort Street in southwest Detroit.

Supporters of the second span and community health advocates disagreed about the DIBC’s responsibility to explore the project’s impact on the environmental health of the community.

“A project of this size, which will potentially live in our communities for the next 100 years, clearly warrants a full environmental impact statement. This has not been done yet” says Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López. “It is our responsibility as elected officials to protect the health and well-being of our residents.”

State Representative Stephanie Chang and Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López, along with more than 100 residents who signed an online petition, requested in January that the USCG host last week’s public hearing in order to facilitate access to the permit process and encourage the submission of public comments.

Those in favor of the second span came from around the city to declare their support while many opponents included community residents concerned about impact of the proposed project on their neighborhood.

Public comments of support included statements of good faith that the DIBC has the city’s and southwest Detroit’s best interests in mind.

Opponents’ comments centered around the DIBC’s track record of “bad neighbor” behavior and concerns about increased traffic and pollution.

Due Diligence To Promote Public Health

Supporters of the second span also asserted that the city’s public officials are intentionally misleading Detroiters about the project. There was confusion during public comments about whether or not the DIBC has done their part to determine the effects the project will have on the already distressed air quality in the community.

The Detroit City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday to request that the EPA require a full Environmental Impact Statement before considering permits for the project.

A less formal Environmental Assessment, which resulted in findings of no significant impact, was conducted by a private firm hired by the DIBC and submitted to the USCG in 2009.

Accountability As Private Interests Impact Public Policies

Residents expressed concerns about the role of public oversight versus the power of private interests in this process.

Using the Flint water crisis and recent public hearings about Marathon as examples, they expressed worry of local, state, and national safeguards failing to protect them from projects that could negatively impact the environmental health and safety of southwest Detroit.

Local media outlets are investigating payments made to public commenters who attended last week’s hearing.

One supporter said on Channel 7 local news that he was paid by the people trying to get the second span built. Supporters at the hearing repeatedly urged the United States Coast Guard to be quick and decisive in issuing permits in favor of the DIBC’s second span.

State Representative Stephanie Chang responded to these reports saying, “Its really disappointing because the point of a public hearing is to hear what people’s true concerns are.”

See written statements submitted to the US Coast Guard during the public comment period here:  http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg551/ABEP%20Comments.asp

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