Caltrans Asked to Find Solution For Bird Deaths at 101 Project - NBC Bay Area

Caltrans Asked to Find Solution For Bird Deaths at 101 Project



    Caltrans Asked to Find Solution For Bird Deaths at 101 Project
    Photograph courtesy of Mission San Juan Capistrano
    This is a cliff swallow.

    A local bird conversation organization is asking Caltrans officials to make efforts to prevent bird deaths caused by a highway construction project in Petaluma.

    Netting put up on U.S. Highway 101 for a construction project is killing migratory birds that nest in the area during the spring, Audubon California spokesman Garrison Frost said.

    Frost said the nets are not tight enough and are "just catching birds."

    He said each year cliff swallows build nests out of packed mud underneath the freeway and other ledges in the area. He said the netting problem seems avoidable and the Audubon California members are asking for measures to be taken to prevent the death of dozens of the swallows. "We're really disappointed to hear about this," Frost said.

    Caltrans has been working on construction on U.S. Highway 101 in Petaluma and the project will continue through 2014, according to Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus.

    Two bridges where the cliff swallows are known to build their nests are part of the construction project: the Lakeville overpass at state Highway 116 and the Petaluma bridge near Petaluma Boulevard North, Haus said.

    He said transportation officials are "closely monitoring the situation" and are arranging meetings with local environmental groups.

    "We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously," Haus said. Haus said the transit agency cannot do construction activity within 50 feet of an active nest, based on state regulations, so netting was put up.

    "We try to do work without interfering with the nesting process," he said. He said there were some gaps in the netting and that Caltrans officials were tasked with closing those spaces that were dangerous for the birds.

    Cliff Swallows migrate to North America each spring from Central and South America.