Sticking Point: Endangered cacti cause rerouting of road construction in Iowa

Updated Oct 21, 2015
Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom in Colorado. Photo Credit: Mark Byzewski/Wikimedia CommonsPrickly Pear Cactus in bloom in Colorado. Photo Credit: Mark Byzewski/Wikimedia Commons

The plans for a road set to be built in Iowa had to be changed recently because of endangered cacti growing along the planned route.

The Sioux City Journal reported the Iowa Department of Natural Resources decided to accept a plan to build around the field south of Sioux City to protect the more than 100 bigroot prickly pear cactus plants that were found growing in 2011 after the first phase of planning on the road was complete.

“We’re shifting the road to the west so that the boundaries of the area will not be impacted,” Sioux City engineer Glenn Ellis said. “We’re going to avoid the cactus and move forward with the design.”

The decision to go around the field will probably end up being the cheapest option available. Ellis said the new change most likely will not end up increasing the overall cost of the project to build Southbridge Drive.

Though the cactus is common in some western states, it’s rare and protected in Iowa. Sioux City would have had to pay $100 per plant if they were removed, and it would have cost more than $50,000 to relocate the cacti. The city council voted for the alternate route back in July and the Iowa DNR just recently approved the plan.

“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,” Iowa DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins said.