This has allowed the contractor to resume construction on three of the four bridge piers that were within a 300-foot buffer zone around the nests, according to KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Mike McGregor. Construction crews had adjusted their construction activities because the eggs are protected by the federal government under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“The ospreys had laid an egg directly on top of one of the steel trusses, and then attempted to build a nest around it,” McGregor said. “The egg cracked and was determined to be non-viable by biologists. The nest has since been removed."
"This allowed the contractor to resume work at Pier 3, 4 and 5," McGregor said. "Currently, the only nest that contains an egg is at Span E of the old bridge, which is near Pier 6. That is the only area where construction activity remains limited.”
Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says some of the 40 workers who were laid off because of the bird delay have been called back.
A biologist will watch the remaining nests. If the birds are disturbed by the construction equipment enough to fly away, crews have to adjust their work. As long as they remain on their nest or return shortly, work can continue.
KYTC says it funded osprey platforms in 2013 because of approaching construction of new bridges over Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, which the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources constructed on both lakes to provide alternate nesting sites. However, getting the ospreys to move to those alternate sites has been a significant challenge.
In 2014, there were 128 documented osprey nests in Kentucky, with more than 100 along Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the Land Between The Lakes area. Of those, there were seven osprey nests on the Eggners Ferry Bridge and five on the bridge at Canton.
“Our goal is to accommodate the ospreys during the critical mating and nesting season,” McGregor said. “We've worked closely with KDFWR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the ospreys while maintaining a work schedule on the bridge.”
McGregor noted that getting the ospreys to move to alternate nesting locations is of long-term importance because the existing bridges on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake will eventually be demolished. When that happens, the ospreys are going to have to adapt to new nesting sites, which may also include the new bridges.
Ospreys are not endangered in Kentucky, but their population is carefully monitored. They are considered a species of greatest conservation need, which is why any eggs are protected.