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Eagles delay paving job

A pair of bald eagles has thrown a temporary roadblock in front of pavers intent on laying asphalt on Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor.

Crews have postponed paving Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor until July 15 due to the presence of a pair of bald eagles nesting nearby, said Dave Chesson, DOT spokesman, on Thursday.

"Federal and state laws say the protected bird needs a wide berth when nesting and raising young," Chesson said.

For drivers, this means a two-month wait for the final layer of asphalt to go down and for the bumps in the roadway to disappear.

WSDOT worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find a solution. Crews tried to complete paving last summer, but weeks of unrelenting wet weather made it impossible to finish the few remaining days of work before October.

Bald eagles are protected by both state and federal law. In July 2007, the bald eagle was removed from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. However, two other federal laws still provide protection for the bald eagle: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These laws primarily address nest tree protection and protection from harassment.

Under the Golden Eagle Protection Act, WSDOT could be liable for disturbing the birds while they are nesting. Penalties can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nighttime disturbances are not allowed at all.

A lane closure is required to finish the paving between Eagle Vista and Scenic Heights. Crews are not allowed to pave during the day to avoid significant congestion and delays for local commuters and summer tourist traffic in the Oak Harbor area.

Crews estimate they will need five nights of dry weather to complete the paving. Crews will return to add permanent lane striping 21 days after paving. The time between paving and lane markings allows the new asphalt to properly cure so the striping will adhere properly.

For more project information, visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR20/SidneyStreetToScenicHeights. For more information on bald eagle management and protection, please visit: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/baldeagle

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