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Endangered Hawk Blocks CA Bridge Repair

Friday, May 19, 2017

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Construction on a Bay Area bridge ground to a halt this week after crews discovered a protected species of hawk nesting in nearby trees.

According to media reports, the presence of a Swainson’s hawk—listed as a threatened species by the California Department of Fish and Game since 1983—could delay work on Interstate 80 overpasses for up to a year.

Work was slated to begin Monday (May 15) on the Midway and Meridian bridges east of Vacaville, a city of about 96,000 people that sits 35 miles west of Sacramento and 55 miles east of San Francisco.

The hawk and the unhatched eggs nestled inside the nest scuttled that plan, which includes demolishing the Midway Bridge and building a new span that meets seismic retrofit standards. California Department of Transportation spokesman Vince Jacala said construction workers aren’t allowed within 600 feet of the nest.

Looking Down the Road

For the time being, crews will shift their focus to the nearby Meridian overpass. Work is scheduled to begin Friday (May 19), and lane patterns will be altered for three to six months.

“These bridges (were) built back in the ’50s, and it’s something we have to update and take care of,” Jacala said. “In a perfect world, someone would have spotted (the hawk) earlier.”

Judith Lamare, president of Friends of the Swainson’s hawk—an organization based in Sacramento—said the bird’s well-being takes precedence.

“Everybody that builds in California and the Central Valley knows the rules of the game,” Lamare said. “Historically, there were about 17,000 Swainson’s hawks; today, there are about 4,000 breeding Swainson’s hawks.”

Swainson's Hawk
Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swainson's hawks are an endangered species, with about 17,000 in California and other western states.

Lamare noted that 80 percent of Swainson’s hawks—named for Richard Swainson, a British naturalist—nest and mate within 70 miles of Sacramento.

Nature’s Roadblocks

This isn’t the first time an endangered species has impacted the progress of a construction project.

  • A plan to replace the Lyons Dam in Ionia County, Michigan, was suspended after Department of Natural Resources surveyors spotted snuffbox mussels in the Grand River.
     
  • A $5.8 million project to build a new Stepps Ford Bridge in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, came to a standstill in August 2014 after a change in the bridge's design troubled federal officials, who felt it could threaten madtom catfish in the Neosho River.
     
  • And earlier this year, work was halted on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge near San Francisco in order to preserve the nest of an Anna's hummingbird.

 

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Commercial Construction; Government; Project Management; Roads/Highways

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