MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The group managing construction of a $2 billion light-rail project between Minneapolis and its southwestern suburbs is receiving stinging criticism about the well-being of Minnesota's newly anointed state bee.
The rusty patched bumblebee nests, feeds and winters along part of the transit line's proposed route between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Critics of the project say the ongoing construction is a threat to the bumblebee.
But those in charge of the project say every precaution is being taken to protect the bee. As the removal of trees along the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) route continues, a spokesperson says the Metropolitan Council has taken preemptive moves to protect the rusty patched bee by mowing down potential bee habitats so bees would move elsewhere.
"We mowed down those floral habitats that are in this construction zone to prevent the bee from even showing up," said Trevor Roy, a spokesperson for the SWLRT.
Critics say that is laughable.
"Suppose we said we are not making people homeless, we are just destroying all the affordable housing," Mary Pattock of the Lakes and Trails Alliance said. "That's what they are doing to the bees. They are not destroying the bees-- they are taking down their potential housing."
Critics of the project are furious that construction is underway without all of the 2 billion dollars of funding in place. They say the hiring of a lobbyist by Hennepin County and the Met Council is proof the funding is on shaky ground.
"Why else would they hire a 200,000 dollar a year lobbyist?" Pattock said.
Despite this, SWLRT managers say they are confident that funding will happen.
Southwest LRT points to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, saying along the construction route they found no rusty patched bumblebees. But a U.S. Fish and Wildlife map shows high potential zones for the rusty patched bee along the route.
The construction of this project coincides with growing concern about the future of the rusty patched bee statewide. Just this past legislative session the state legislature voted to make it the official state bee.
The legislature also approved $900,000 dollars in grants to taxpayers to create habitats to protect bees.
The project is the biggest public works project in state history and is scheduled for completion in 2023.
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