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Protected Ospreys Complicate Construction at Soon-to-Be Demolished Bridges

KYTC/Keith Todd

Federally-protected osprey nests have led to the temporary furlough of more than 30 construction jobs on the new bridge being built over Kentucky Lake.

The workers were within 300 feet of active nests on the old Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, which is not allowed under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd says efforts to get the birds to move to specially-installed platforms have, thus far, not been successful.

“Our original thought was that there would be enough construction activity for the new bridge that that would quite possibly deter the osprey from nesting on the old bridge, but apparently they’re more resilient than some folks give them credit for being," Todd said.

Todd says the KYTC is working with federal and state fish and wildlife officials to figure out a solution. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources avian biologist Kate Heyden says the birds have high “site fidelity”, meaning they nest in the same spot every year.

“It does take quite a bit of encouragement to get these birds to choose a new place for nesting,” Heyden said.

Heyden said about 80 percent of the statewide osprey population nests in the Land Between the Lakes area.

“We do an inventory for them statewide on a three-year interval and last year we counted 128 nests, statewide," Heyden said. "One hundred and two of those were in the Land Between the Lakes area, so that’s the best place in the state for them.”

The old Eggner’s Ferry Bridge is tentatively scheduled for demolition next spring, but Todd says the nesting ospreys could present setbacks again next year.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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