Prince George's County Council members say officials overseeing construction of the Intercounty Connector are penalizing the county by canceling or changing more of its environmental projects than those in Montgomery County.
ICC officials said they plan to cut some previously required environmental projects and to reclassify others because the highway's final design ended up sparing almost a mile more of streams and 30 more acres of wetlands and forests than they had expected, leaving less environmental damage for them to offset.
Three of 10 stream and wetlands restoration projects in Prince George's County have been replaced with similar work in Montgomery, and none of the remaining Prince George's projects is needed as part of the federal approval process. They have been reclassified as part of the state's voluntary efforts to repair environmental damage that occurred before the highway's construction.
Montgomery lost two wetlands restoration projects but added three projects and retained 30 others. Six of those were reclassified from required "mitigation" to voluntary "stewardship" programs.
During a hearing Thursday, County Council Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga, a Laurel Democrat, told ICC officials that the changes largely spared Montgomery, whose public officials pushed for the highway, at the expense of Prince George's, whose council had objected to it.
"I guess ... this is payback from the State Highway Administration," Dernoga said.
Council members said they have appealed to Gov. Martin O'Malley. The Federal Highway Administration, which must approve the changes, is reviewing them, ICC officials said.
Rob Shreeve, the ICC's environmental manager, said ICC officials kept restoration projects that would most benefit the Anacostia watershed, regardless of which jurisdiction the streams and wetlands are in.