Harrisburg, PA

New Road Plan Helps Nesting Eagles

Gregory Vellner

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Bald Eagles and PennDOT intersect.Unsplash

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Concern a $640 million road project threatens the livelihood of bald eagles nesting nearby, the Pennsylvania Transpiration Department says it will pump the brakes and undertake measures to protect the once-endangered species from harmful noise and visibility commotion.

Bald eagles this spring returned to the Snyder County site, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. That's where the southern section of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) project called the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway already was in the works following groundbreaking more than five years ago. PennDOT’s decision came after recent protests by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and area citizens over potential construction impacts.

“The first measure we are taking is that we will not perform any construction activity within 660 feet of the nest,” said Noah Bauer, project manager of PennDOT’s Engineering District 3-0’s design unit. “We will continue to coordinate with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the project proceeds.”

In addition to the 660-foot buffer recommended by the fish and wildlife service, PennDOT will undertake other steps, said Bauer.

“We are also restricting blasting through April 30 within a half mile of the nest to protect the eagles from loud and intense noise during the laying, incubation and brooding phases of their breeding season,” he said, adding that noise analysis studies will be taken.

PennDOT’s efforts to protect the eagles are “very reasonable,” said Dan Brauning, former supervisor, Wildlife Diversity Program, state Game Commission.

“Eagles are not the birds of pristine wilderness that we once thought,” he said. “Just think about the number of nests that are literally within feet of an active highway. They are somewhat sensitive to a person on foot close to the nest, but we have to get past the idea that they are endangered. They’re not anymore.”

The eagle nest, on the edge of a small wetland built decades ago by PennDOT to mitigate impacts of widening US 11 south of Selinsgrove, is visible from sections of Mill Road where construction is scheduled , as well as from Route 204.

“The state bought land so that it always, in perpetuity, will stay a wetland,” said Bob Garrett, president, Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We all agree there can be no net loss of wetlands for a myriad of reasons.”

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

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