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State budget language assures Caltrans, bird advocates meet

By LORI A. CARTER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Caltrans will be obliged to meet with state and federal wildlife agencies and local bird advocates next year before resuming highway work in Petaluma, assuming Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget package on his desk.

The language in a broader bill prevents the state transportation agency from working on the Marin-Sonoma Narrows

Veronica Bowers, director and founder of Native Songbird Care & Conservation advocacy group, looks for swallows caught and dead or dying in the nets under the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (SCOTT MANCHESTER/ PD)

Veronica Bowers, director and founder of Native Songbird Care & Conservation advocacy group, looks for swallows caught and dead or dying in the nets under the Highway 101 bridge over the Petaluma River in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (SCOTT MANCHESTER/ PD)

Highway 101 project during next year’s bird migration season before its representatives discuss “exclusionary measures” to protect birds.

Tenth District Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, pushed the language to protect migratory cliff swallows, many of which were killed this spring in nets Caltrans applied under Highway 101 to keep them from building their mud nests on bridge supports.

Either because of the type of net or problems with their installation, birds were being trapped as they built or accessed their mud nests on the concrete.

Levine said Tuesday the budget package includes language assuring that, before work resumes during the spring 2014 migratory season, Caltrans will meet with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local conservation and community organizations that have expertise in migratory birds.

“It requires Caltrans to report back to the budget chairs of the Assembly and Senate how they complied with the law,” he said. “And they have to stay what steps they took.”

Caltrans must also discuss with the wildlife agencies and conservationists “ongoing operational plans for bird protection.”

“For Caltrans not to sit down with these groups is ridiculous,” Levine said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental groups has asked a federal judge in San Francisco to halt work on the highway over the Petaluma River while the court considers their lawsuits arguing that the work endangers the federally protected birds.

The groups filed for an injunction last month and have a hearing June 28.

The groups say that netting designed to keep migratory birds away from the $130 million bridge project, which will widen Highway 101 over the river, instead entangled and killed dozens of them. The groups are asking the court to force the agency to do more extensive environmental review before resuming work.

Caltrans has said problems with the netting were inadvertent and were corrected.

Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Danny Lutz said he hopes the language will encourage Caltrans to cooperate with conservationists before initiating work in environmentally sensitive areas.

“We would hope that the wording ‘shall meet with and update’ is not just an information download and is actually a conversation that enables public comment to affect the way the project is implemented,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.





4 Responses to “State budget language assures Caltrans, bird advocates meet”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Follower-some birds are frightened away by this but predators don’t tend to predate on swallows they are so swift. Caltrans can’t be trusted for a lot of reasons and that’s just the plain truth.

    They are violating an international agreement on migrating birds who already have a hard road to travel. This country expects our neighbors to protect these birds. It is unconscionable that we would violate it ourselves.

    Besides, swallows are very valuable. They eat mosquitos by the millions.

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  2. Vinyl Rules says:

    I am so relieved to know that Assemblymember Levine is up in Sacramento tackling the issues that really matter. You know, like some birds dying. So relieved.

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  3. Follower says:

    I worked at a company awhile back that had a “bird problem”.
    They set up a couple loudspeakers and played a recording of predator calls.

    No more “bird problem”.

    I think they spent all of a couple hundred bucks.

    No coalitions, no meetings, no dead birds.

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  4. The Hammer says:

    What next!

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

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