DVIDS – NEWS – New Orleans engineers working hard to protect bald eagles and wildlife in project areas

When working on any project, one of the main responsibilities of the US Army Corps of Engineers is to determine how that project will affect those who live in that area. Not only people, but also the natural habitats of fish and wildlife that pass through that area or call it home.

According to Bradley Druant, a senior project manager for the New Orleans area for USACE, the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane and Storm Hazard Reduction System (WSLP) project is one of many such projects undertaken by individuals working in the New Orleans area for USACE.

“The WSLP is being constructed to reduce the risk of hurricanes and tropical storms for many residents in the East Bank parishes of St. John Baptist and St. Charles. The construction of this approximately 18.5-mile system will result in direct impacts on approximately 1,380 acres of wetlands, Derwent said.

Patrick Smith, a biologist with the Department of Environmental Studies in the US Army New Orleans District, noted that the Corps personnel working on the WSLP project are diligent when they consider how the projects might affect the different species that live in that area, whether they be aquatic (fish, crayfish and freshwater shrimp), avian (owls, eagles, herons and egrets), or terrestrial (crocodiles, turtles, frogs, salamanders, snakes, squirrels and rabbits).

Smith noted that one species that was recently removed (or deleted) from the threatened species list, the bald eagle, can be seen near the WSLP project area.

“The Corps personnel are pursuing an aggressive surveillance plan for bald eagles and colonial waterfowl in coordination with state and federal resource agencies,” Smith said. This includes twice-yearly airborne surveys of bald eagles and colonial waterfowl and their nesting and nesting behaviour. If colonial nesting sites and eagles’ nests are observed in the project area, specific actions may occur to reduce and minimize project impacts, including work restrictions up to 1,500 feet from bald eagle nesting.”
As of the last airborne survey conducted in December 2022, no nesting sites of bald eagles or bald eagles have been observed in the WSLP’s Hurricane and Storm Hazard Reduction System project area.

Smith stated that bald eagle numbers in Louisiana and across much of its range in the contiguous United States have been increasing since lows in the 1970s. Its resurgence over the past several decades is believed to be due to federal actions, such as the 1973 ban of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), the Clean Water Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Their numbers were so low that from 1967 to 1995 they were listed as vulnerable under the European Space Agency.

Smith noted that from 1995 until the bald eagle was delisted in 2007, it was considered an endangered species. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates there are about 350 active nests in Louisiana, Smith said, compared to roughly five breeding pairs in the 1970s. Bald eagles are at the top of the food web and feed mostly on fish. Most Louisiana bald eagles are migratory, with many individual birds returning annually to their birthplace.

In addition to bald eagles, Smith noted that the project area is also known to support colonial-period nesting waterfowl (herons, egrets, etc.) that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Also, two aquatic species that are currently on the threatened wildlife list – the Gulf sturgeon and the West Indian manatee – are known to frequent the project area. For aquatic animals such as manatees, all personnel associated with projects in work areas are notified of their potential presence and are required to follow specific protocols when these animals are present.

“The Corps of Engineers understands the importance of being good stewards of our environment, protecting the resources and wildlife that live in the areas in which we operate,” said Drouant. “We take this into account as much as possible when working on projects designed to benefit the people who visit and live in Louisiana.”

Appointment booked: 01.17.2023
Announcement date: 01/17/2023 10:24
Story ID: 436,816
Location: New Orleans, Los Angeles, United States

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