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Bird safety law hampers bridge work, official says

BY JIM MYERS - Tulsa World Published: April 25, 2011
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/articleid/3561824/1/pictures/1401845">Photo - Gary Ridley, left, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation, speaks during a field hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at Oklahoma City Community College. in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) ORG XMIT: OKSO104
Gary Ridley, left, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation, speaks during a field hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at Oklahoma City Community College. in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) ORG XMIT: OKSO104
We have two bridges we know have serious problems, big-time serious problems that we need to replace.”

Ridley said he wants Congress to amend the law on migratory birds to give departments of transportation across the nation relief, especially on projects that are limited to replacing or repairing what is already part of their states’ systems.

No impact

According to a statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, which enforces the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the law has no impact on Oklahoma’s road projects unless birds are killed during a project.

“Our standard practice is to advise road crews to conduct habitat destruction activities before or after the bird breeding season,” the statement read.

“Permits may be issued in situations where the ... relocation of birds is absolutely necessary to protect human health or safety.”

Jeff Haskins, chief of the migratory bird office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s southwest region, clarified the bird in question is the cliff swallow, known for nesting under bridges, not the barn swallow.

Conceding it may be inconvenient, Haskins said his agency encourages states to plan ahead on road projects and remove nests before the swallows arrive. An empty nest can be removed without a permit, he said.

Asked whether his agency has stepped up its enforcement of the law and specifically the Ellis County project, Haskins denied any change in enforcement has occurred but said he could not comment on ODOT’s experience last year.


Read the rest of the story on Oklahoman.com
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