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Corridor K

Conservation Impacts of Corridor K   |   Corridor K in the News   |  Archive

Conservation Impacts of Corridor K

The plans for Corridor K, generally aimed at linking Chattanooga with Asheville, were conceived and put into play over 40 years ago. Although there has been environmental analysis as sections have come up, there was never an environmental analysis, environmental planning, or any real environmental consideration of the entire route. Because of this lack of planning and forethought, the sections that have not been constructed are planned through the most difficult terrain and some of the most sensitive habitat and scenic areas of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

These sections, if constructed, would cause profound environmental and scenic destruction and would cost billions in taxpayer money to build. These uncompleted sections have been put on hold for precisely these reasons. Their environmental and economic costs are just too high. Recently there have been efforts to revive these projects. This effort is ill-advised and ignores the environmental impacts and the high cost of these projects when existing roads need maintenance. If this road were to be punched through, one of the hardest sections of I-3 to construct would already be completed. If you want to be involved with this particular project of the Stop I-3 Coalition, let us know on the volunteer interests form.

(Click image for a larger view)

A general overview of the project gives an idea of the costs, impacts, and difficulties. The construction would have to cut through some of the most rugged mountain terrain in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. These mountains are on geologically unstable slopes containing acid-forming pyritic rocks. These slopes also contain numerous headwater streams that constitute and drain into fishing streams including prime trout waters. These streams are also upstream of municipal water supplies and recreation lakes. The lands that the route would pass through also are heavily in public land ownership, primarily national forestlands. These lands constitute valued wildlife habitat, including bear habitat, rare plant and animal habitat, and threatened and endangered species habitat.

Dozens of rare species, including state-listed threatened and endangered species could be adversely affected by Corridor K construction (see maps at www.XXXXXXXXX) Corridor K would also fragment and harm this valuable mountain wildlife habitat and lead to increased bear mortality. The plans would require drilling several tunnels. Besides the enormous expense of these tunnels, the tunnels would risk altering the hydrology and drainage of these mountain areas. The visual impacts of putting a four-lane road system in these mountain areas are also very troubling, specifically:

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    In the Cheoah area near Robbinsville, the corridor K route would pass through the small community of Stecoah, destroying the integrity of this rural community. Plans for Corridor K call for a corridor through or under Cheoah Bald Mountain. Much of the mountain is roadless and otherwise in wild and natural conditions that would be harmed by corridor K. The mountain is prime bear habitat and is home to numerous rare plants and animals. Much of the area in the road corridor is visually sensitive. The road would cross the Appalachian Trail. Even if the road is put in a tunnel at the intersection, the route is likely to be visible from the trail for miles, degrading the trail experience. Noise from the trail is also likely to degrade the AT experience in what is now a very wild section of the trail. Corridor K would also cut through or under the Snowbird Mountains, damaging wildlife habitat, visually sensitive lands, including the Ash Cove Mountain Treasure area. The road would cross many high quality streams including trout streams and streams feeding into Fontana Lake, Lake Santeelah, and the Valley River.

  • (Click image for a larger view)
    In the Ocoee area of eastern Tennessee, the corridor K route would pass between Big Frog and Little Frog Wilderness areas, passing virtually adjacent to the Little Frog Wilderness. Noise and visual quality are likely to be apparent along the slopes of this area. The planned route would also pass very close to the Olympic Whitewater Center, degrading the recreation experience in the area. Bicycle and hiking trails near the Center would be destroyed and likely could not be relocated satisfactorily. The corridor K route would cut through approximately 21 miles of Cherokee National Forest, disturbing habitat for bear, other wildlife, and destroying habitat for rare species of plants and animals. Bear habitat would be fragmented in one of the more remote portions of Cherokee National Forest. Migration corridors for bear would be disrupted and bear mortality would very likely increase. Visually sensitive lands would be impacted. Several trails would be destroyed, disrupted, or impacted, including the Benton MacKaye Trail, which would be crossed by the Corridor K route. Road cuts would be required across numerous high quality streams, including trout streams, in an area known for acid forming rocks. The route would pass very close to the Rock Creek Gorge Scenic Area and the lower section of the Rock Creek Mountain Treasure Area would be heavily impacted. Rural communities including the remote community of Fairview would be impacted and quality of life degraded in the area. Campgrounds in the area, which are in close proximity to the route, would be impacted by the road.

Nevertheless, the Corridor K project is listed as project of the Appalachian Regional Commission and appears to have some support from elected officials at various levels of government. Please see for more background information.

Corridor K in the News

11/29/07, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, Inc.
WATR COLUMN (Water Activities Thoroughly Reviewed)

'Everything is possible,' TDOT says as it prepares to write a new draft environmental impact study for Corridor K, which could adversely affect the Hiwassee River

"A poll of businesses is done 'in the blind' as a consultant asserts that 85 of them support the $2.3 billion highway construction project that somehow would traverse the rugged Ocoee River region" Read more...

11/29/07,Chattanooga Times Free Press

Momentum gains on Chattanooga-Asheville road

"Widening Corridor K has been debated since it first was listed as an economic development corridor by the Appalachian Regional Commission in 1965. Proponents of the road say it would bring economic prosperity to a historically poor region. Environmentalists say a road would damage the environment, destroy artifacts and cost billions of dollars better spent elsewhere." Read more...

11/18/07, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Corridor K study coming to an end

"An economic study showing the impact of a Chattanooga-to-Asheville, N.C. highway on a 23-county area will be completed by mid-December, officials said. Ed Cole, chief of environment and planning for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said U.S. Highway 64, or Corridor K, could be part of a three-year work plan handed to the Tennessee General Assembly in May." Read more...

Most businesses support Corridor K? What do YOU think?"

10/16/07, Cherokee Scout

Survey: 84 percent support Corridor K

"Snow is aware that some people fear Corridor K’s association with I-3, but he doesn’t think the project will provide an 'impetus' for I-3, a controversial interstate proposal that would stretch from Savannah, Ga. to Knoxville, Tenn., that Snow opposes. Read more...

9/24/07, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Corridor K economic meetings set

"Details of an economic study in the area affected by a Chattanooga-to-Asheville, N.C., highway will be presented in a series of public meetings next month, officials said.They are the final stages of an eight-month study looking at the biggest factors influencing growth and decline in the corridor area of Southeast Tennessee and western North Carolina, said Melissa Ziegler with Wilbur Smith Associates of Knoxville. 'Somewhere in this, there is an answer, a collaborative answer," Ms. Ziegler said. "I don't know what that is.'" Read more...

5/15/07, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, Inc.
WATR COLUMN (Water Activities Thoroughly Reviewed)

An east Tennessee freeway in the sky is one of the incredible Corridor K construction schemes that could straddle the Hiwassee River watershed, costing billions to build and posing severe environmental threats

"The remote Kimsey Mountain Road runs east from Tennessee Highway 30 near Reliance, up and over peaks as it takes you toward Murphy. This is a rugged 12-mile-long gravel trail high up in Tennessee’s Little Frog Wilderness, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. I drove it today in my pickup truck. Rounding curve after curve, you bounce along over gravel, even boulders, as you grip the wheel with both hands and your tires hug a two-lane path along the rim of a breathtaking horseshoe-shaped valley. This powerful scene of mountain splendor is dotted with rhododendron, mountain laurel and wild azalea. Elevation changes here are dramatic, ranging from 1,200 to 3,332 feet, according to and the runoff from the steep slopes on the northern rim of the horseshoe drains into the Hiwassee River." Read more...

2/8/07, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, Inc.
WATR COLUMN (Water Activities Thoroughly Reviewed)

What it will be is “an open book” as citizens from three states comment on Corridor K

"Nine Tennessee counties rate this project their top priority" Read more...

Archive of newsletter articles regarding Corridor K

From the June 2007 Stop I-3 Newsletter

Corridor K update

Corridor K MapIn our May newsletter, we noted that a consultant (Wilbur Smith Associates of Tennessee) was holding a series of public meetings to discuss a “draft economic development strategy” for the proposed Corridor K highway that would link Asheville to Chattanooga. The Corridor K route is basically East-West and Interstate 3 would be North-South but both highways would cut through the same mountainous areas of Western North Carolina. Sections of Corridor K, if it were to be built first, could morph into parts of an interstate at a later date. These include the remaining unbuilt sections of Corridor K: the connection from Stecoah to Andrews tunneling through the Snowbird Mountains, and the section from Murphy to Cleveland paralleling US 64 along the Ocoee River. 

Members of the Stop I-3 Coalition who attended the meetings found that they were pre-programmed and focused around economic and development matters to the near exclusion of the drastic environmental impacts and the immense cost of the proposed highway. Participants were basically asked to rubber stamp a prepared document full of assumptions, notably that this area is underserved by roads and that more roads will bring in big industrial employers.

The Stop I-3 Coalition will continue to monitor any moves to further the building of Corridor K. The Coalition Board has determined that our mission of "opposing I-3 or any similar highway" should include scrutinizing other four lane projects in the region, especially those which, like Corridor K, threaten to prepare the way for Interstate 3.

Corridor K is a project of the Appalachian Regional Commission and appears to have some support from elected officials at various levels of government. Please see for more background information.

From the May 2007 Stop I-3 Newsletter

Corridor K public hearings

An engineering consultant is holding a second series of public meetings to discuss a “draft economic development strategy” for the proposed Corridor K highway that would link Asheville to Chattanooga. As this proposal could have major implications for sensitive areas of Southern Appalachia – including any number of possible Interstate 3 corridors – the coalition urges all possible stakeholders to attend these hearings.

• 11 a.m., Tuesday May 15, Ocoee Whitewater Center, 4466 U.S. 64, Copperhill, Tennessee.
• 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, Southwestern Community College, 447 College Drive, Sylva, North Carolina.
• 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 17, Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, Tennessee.
The meetings are being facilitated by Wilbur Smith Associates, which asks that participants signal their intention to attend with an RSVP to Frances Hall, (865) 803-8994 or by contacting


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