Norman Wood Bridge painters stalled: ‘Everybody’s looking for the eagles … nobody has seen any’
Perched above the Susquehanna River bed on the Norman Wood Bridge, High over the Susquehanna River under the Norman Wood Bridge, a worker constructs a platform for painters. York Daily Record/Sunday News photogapher (and blogger) Bil Bowden capture this photo and the one below. Background posts: Pennsylvania: Rivers run through it (see neat picture of an Eagle), Photographer tramps to far reaches of York County and York County still home to unvarnished beauty.
Many people are familiar with the two bridges that cross the Susquehana River between Wrightsville and Columbia.
Many people know that the Conowingo Dam carries U.S. Route 1 over the river in Maryland.
But the remote Norman Wood Bridge, the third bridge over the river between Harrisburg and the Chesapeake Bay gets less respect.
The eagles that nest below its deck have even deserted it. …
Workers build a platform under the bridge. The platform will be used by painters who will help preserve the bridge. The bridge is two-thirds of a mile long and carries about 3,500 vehicles a day, according to the York Daily Record/Sunday News. The painting project will be completed at the end of 2009.
Attempts to preserve the remote structure have temporarily stalled because of the sensitivity of the eagles that reside there.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (7/23/08) tells about the might of the finicky birds:
Where are those birds?
For months, nesting bald eagles have delayed the start of a $5.8 million construction project on the Norman Wood Bridge, which spans the Susquehanna River between York and Lancaster counties.
Now that a crew is preparing to repaint the bridge, which towers more than 100 feet above the river, the workers have been watching for them.
“Everybody’s looking for the eagles, but nobody has seen any,” said Maria Savakis, safety director for the Hercules Painting Company Inc. of New Castle, Lawrence County.
Wildlife, such as the threatened bald eagle, can temporarily set back construction work so the birds and their nests aren’t disturbed. Otherwise, their young could die.
To illustrate how sensitive eagles are, one of the trails at William H. Kain County Park had to be temporarily closed earlier this year because people were standing under a nest waiting to see them, said Mike Fobes, manager of natural resources for York County Parks.
“The eagle was never going to come back when they were standing underneath it,” he said.
Eagles must keep their eggs a certain temperature in order for them to hatch, Fobes said.
They were jittery in the spring, but eventually grew used to people coming by, he said.
While they do adjust to their environment, “a car going over (a bridge) is a lot different than a person working there,” Fobes said.
The contractor will be able to work on the first seven piers of the bridge, counting from the York County side, until July 31, said Greg Penny, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. After that, the entire bridge will be fair game.
It’s a temporary setback but work that can be delayed until the birds are fledging and have left the nest, said Jerry Feaser, a Game Commission spokesman.
The contractor is working seven days a week in part because of the delay, Penny said. The company only has a few more months before the weather will hamper the work.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2009, but the contractor anticipates finishing ahead of schedule.
And the eagles aren’t the only birds the crew is on the lookout for.
The contractor was warned that a pair of peregrine falcons, which are considered endangered in Pennsylvania, are scoping out a nesting area for next year.
Savakis said the crew hasn’t seen the falcons, either, since it started work last week.
Workers can use a broom to protect themselves from the aggressive birds, but they are not allowed to swing at them, Penny said.
Savakis said they hope to see the birds while working on the bridge.
“I’m hoping that throughout the duration of the project, we’ll see a bald eagle,” she said.