Officials Say Details Coming Soon on Plan for Sea Birds Impacted by Tunnel

Feb 19, 2020

 

Royal terns resting on South Island in 2018.
Credit MATTHEW FOSSUM

 

Bird advocates are pushing state officials to make good on a promise to provide new habitat for thousands of migratory sea birds. The animals have been pushed off their old nesting grounds by a massive tunnel project in Hampton Roads. 

 


Governor Ralph Northam recently announced a plan to temporarily prepare barges, and another nearby island, as new nesting habitat.

Bill Leighty, a former political insider who now represents a coalition of birding enthusiasts, welcomes the Governor’s move. But he told members of the state transportation board Wednesday that it’s now on them to make it all happen. 

“All too often, you know, the Governor’s office issues the press release and moves on and so we want to make sure that the agencies that have to implement the Governor’s vision and his commitments know that this is for real and they need to get some action going,” said Leighty.  

 

Related Content: Tunnel Project Could Displace 25,000 Sea Birds

He’s asking the board to come up with a clear plan to “implement the Governor’s directives” and provide regular updates to the public. 

“What are the specific elements of this plan?” asked bird advocate Terri Cuthriell during a public comment section of Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re hoping for success but there’s a lot that we don’t know.” 

Cuthriell told the board she was worried about the lack of details on funding, timeline and location of new nesting grounds. But, she added, there is still time to get it right.  

 

Secretary of Transportation, Shannon Valentine, says officials will soon make a more detailed plan public. She says they’re hammering out details on how to manage eggs, nests and birds. 

“We all want to take care of the birds. And so for us it is a matter of how do we do it in a way that serves the community in Hampton Roads where we can bridge the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and protect the migratory birds,” said Valentine. 

Bird advocates worry it may be too little too late. Twenty thousand birds are expected back beginning as early as March. 

 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.