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Little Bat Equals Big Frustrations for West Des Moines, Waukee Leaders

The cities will have to spend thousands of dollars to determine if an endangered Indiana bat population will be harmed by construction of the $31 million Alice’s Road interchange.

Discovery of an endangered Indiana bat could delay construction of the anticipated Alice’s Road interchange on Interstate 80 linking Waukee and West Des Moines.

The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) is listed as endangered on both federal and Iowa endangered species list, and officials will spend an estimated $30,000 to determine if construction of the interchange – which is expected to open new areas of both West Des Moine and Waukee for development – would further harm the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which requested the study, estimates the Indiana bat population at about 387,000, less than half the population when the species was listed as endangered in 1967, the Des Moines Register reported.

West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer told the Register discovery of the bat about five-eighths of a mile from the proposed $31 million interchange is frustrating. It was discovered in connection with an earlier West Des Moines project, according to the newspaper. In that study, a lone female Indiana bat was discovered.

“It’s coming up at the last hour … and now all of a sudden they want to bring this site into the analysis,” Gaer said. “It seems to me that it’s so far away, why bring the site into it, but they’ve got the ability to request that we do that.”

The study will likely take place in May when bats come out of hibernation and return to their normal roosting places. While the discovery won’t take the interchange off the table, it could delay the project from three to five months, according to the newspaper.

Once complete, the Alice's Road corridor in Waukee will include 1,700 acres of potential development; a mix of retail, office, research and development and housing alternatives; a series of unique districts focused around major cross streets, linked by a system of active and passive open spaces; interconnected street and trail network; greenway that offers recreational, storm water and open space functions – an interconnected system of parks, green space and water features linked by a network of bike trails and sidewalks; and a hierarchy of street types that will accommodate vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle and transit options.

Road and sewer construction has begun as Alice's Road expands from University Avenue to Ashworth Road and beyond.

Beginning Wednesday morning, March 6, Alice's Road from Ashworth Road southbound to the south side of I-80 will be closed for sewer construction, according to the city of Waukee website. Construction is expected to be completed by about April 18.

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