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Historians Want Resources for Island Now Going to the Birds

Virginia Tech

Experts are once again celebrating the arrival of thousands of migratory sea birds that nest near the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel Complex.  Construction in the area had threatened the terns and gulls, but the state converted part of a small island nearby to habitat, and the nesting birds moved in.  Now, however, there’s a new concern.

Sea birds have long nested near the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel complex because the waters around it are rich with food, and at Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources, Director Ryan Brown says the new habitat has served them well.

“The project actually resulted in the most successful nesting season that we have on record for that area on this new innovative habitat that is the first of its type to be constructed on the east coast of the United States.”

Crews spread sand across about two acres on Ft. Wool – an island built in 1813 to bolster neighboring Fort Monroe.  They  removed trees where predators could perch and anchored barges at the shore.  That suited the birds, but historic preservationists are squawking.  They say too little attention has been given to Ft. Wool with its parade ground and steel tower used to keep watch during World War II. They’d like the island restored and public tours resumed.

Credit Virginia Tech
Ft. Wool and adjacent barges provide a suitable nesting spot for rare and endangered gulls and terns.

Ryan Brown says a solution is in the works – a plan to build the birds an island of their own using sand dredged from local channels.

““While we knew going in that was going to take a period of years to get accomplished, I’m happy to report that we’ve been able to have the priority of our project moved up, and so we’re hoping that leads to a shorter total time period rather than longer.  We applied to the U.S. Army Corps Dredged Spoil Program in order to help defray the costs of building that island and also get the very material we need to do so.”

The Corps of Engineers must identify a suitable site for that island and make sure dumping tons of sand there will not interfere with military maneuvers or endanger marine animals that live on the ocean floor.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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