Environmentalists organize against Vidor loop
For The Record- Dave Rogers
The seeds of protest were served up with the blueberry scones Tuesday night in Vidor.
The Coalition Opposing Vidor Loop 299 held a public meeting at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and host Ellen Buchanan of the Big Thicket National Heritage Trust urged a group of about 30 people to take flyers and leaflets and go door to door to protest the proposed roadway.
“A lot of folks don’t know about this,” she said. “We need to make sure people know this.
“What can you do? Recruit. If you’re got neighbors, recruit your neighbors to join the Coalition Opposing Vidor Loop 299. Just tell me how many hundreds of these (flyers) you want and we’ll get them for you.”
Orange County Commissioners Court has entered into what has been described as a non-binding agreement with consultants to consider an agreement with Texas Department of Transportation to build FM 299, the so-called Vidor loop, a 6.2-mile roadway that would connect the north and south ends of Vidor’s Main Street.
Buchanan made it clear she considers the project to be fool-hardy for many reasons, including a price tag that could result in higher taxes for Orange County citizens.
But the environmental considerations are why she was there Tuesday night to press the case for a coalition that now includes the National Parks Conservation Association, Texas Conservation Alliance, Big Thicket Association, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Southeast Texas Clean Air and Water, Inc., among others.
She points out that the entire length of the road would be within the flood-prone Neches River area and that 2-1/2 miles of the road runs within yards of the boundary of the Big Thicket National Preserve.
She said the loop would destroy important cypress-tupelo swamps and would destroy or fragment wetlands that absorb floods and hurricane storm surges.
City councils for six of the seven cities in Orange County have signed resolutions opposing the expenditure by the county of any money to build FM 299.
But those resolutions have no authority over county government, a fact that is lost on some citizens who believe the loop project has already been stopped.
Buchanan said the Texas Transportation Commission is scheduled to consider FM 299 at its Dec. 14-15 meeting and the time is now to make opposition known to County Judge Stephen Carlton and county commissioners.
She urged contacting the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission to ask them to remove FM 299 from its long-range plan, and she called on volunteers to contact the Texas Transportation Commission to urge them to remove FM 299 from its list of projects when it meets in December.