Endangered Cacti to Be Saved in Road Construction

A cluster of endangered cacti in Sioux City will be protected in the development of a major road project.

📅   Thu November 05, 2015 - Midwest Edition
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A cluster of endangered cacti in Sioux City will be protected in the development of a major road project.
A cluster of endangered cacti in Sioux City will be protected in the development of a major road project.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) A cluster of endangered cacti in Sioux City will be protected in the development of a major road project.

The Sioux City Journal reported state officials have approved a revised plan to build around a field of more than 100 bigroot prickly pear cactus plants. The Southbridge Drive construction will veer west in order to avoid the patch located about 3 mi. southeast of Sioux Gateway Airport.

The city found the cacti in 2011 after completing road construction around a water main to the city’s water treatment plant, which was the first phase of the project. When the plants were discovered, state officials asked the city to redesign the road. City engineer Glenn Ellis said the change won’t likely affect the project’s price tag or delay construction.

“We are pleased that a suitable solution was found that allows the city to proceed with its construction plans while preserving the endangered cacti found on the original proposed route,’’ said Kevin Baskins, a spokesman of the Department of Natural Resources.

The species opuntia macrorhiza is known for its bright yellow blooms, according to state ecologists. Though the plant is common in western and southern states, it’s a protected species in Iowa. Sioux City is home to one of only seven known cactus populations in the state, Baskins said.

Previously, some city council members suggested illegally removing the plants, which would have resulted in a state fine of $100 per plant. Relocating the plants, as required by the DNR, would have cost Sioux City more than $50,000.

The second and final phase of the project realigns Southbridge Drive’s connection at Port Neal Road.