Press release from North Carolina Department of Transportation:
N.C. Department of Transportation officials are working hand-in-hand with biologists from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect endangered gray bats on a bridge in Madison County.
NCDOT contacted the federal agency prior to beginning a project to rehabilitate the bridge on Barnard Road over the French Broad River.
“We knew that in order to best protect the bats, we had better contact the experts for their advice and assistance,” NCDOT Division 13 Environmental Officer Roger Bryan said. “It is important to see this species continue to thrive in our area and their natural habitat.”
Bryan, USFWS biologists Sue Cameron and Claire Ellwanger and their teams visited the bridge on Aug. 15 to survey for bats. They found big brown bats, as well as several endangered gray bats roosting in joints between sections of the bridge.
Biologists and engineers are in the process of detailing and installing a protection plan. The rehabilitation will be completed in stages so several joints are available to the bats at any time. Expansion joint ends will remain open allowing the bats to come and go during the entire process, and a barrier will protect bats in specific joints when work is underway.
“We will construct a barrier between the bats and the work area that provides them essentially the same kind of home they are using now,” Bryan said. “This is one measure taken to protect the bats and allow bridge work to be completed in areas across the country where endangered bats are present.”
Crews will begin repairs after the protections are in place. Rehabilitation to this bridge includes coating the steel, repairing concrete, improving the deck and various minor improvements to extend the life of the 42-year-old structure. This is one of three bridges in a contract with Southern Road & Bridge for $3.4 million. The other two are on Bear Creek Road over Big Laurel Creek in Madison County and on U.S. 226 over the North Toe River in Mitchell County.