Endangered bumble bee complicates Carver County highway project

A major Carver County road construction project is at risk of being delayed after county officials learned their work could adversely impact an endangered species.

Between Chanhassen and Victoria, Carver County Public Works Director Lyndon Robjent says Highway 5 has been over capacity for decades. But now, plans to add a lane in each direction in 2025 are up in the air.

"There is a risk that the whole project would get delayed a year, maybe longer," Robjent told FOX 9 on Tuesday.

Carver County’s Highway 5 project has a $114 million price tag. However, after securing tens of millions of dollars in federal grant money, the county has been informally warned its project could impact the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee endangered species.

"They are definitely still at risk of extinction," University of Minnesota Extension Educator Elaine Evans said of the bumble bees. "The main concern is they could be making their nests in these roadside areas."

Robjent fears construction delays could inflate the county’s $114 million price tag, "It’s been more complicated by the fact that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have limited staff, so you have to get in a line to get them to consult with you," he said.

"We're not really in the business of stopping things. We just have our part in making sure that everybody is doing what they can to help the bees," U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Tamara Smith commented.

The county has a deadline to use its federal grant money, or let the dollars go.

"Then we’re starting over on trying to win grants to make the project happen; in the meantime, the project still sits there. There are still safety, congestion issues, so the frustrating part is we just want to get to the table," Robjent said. "We want to move forward, we need the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to engage with us."