NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted work Friday on a portion of a major levee project that threatens a bald eagle nest.
Enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service passed onto the Corps a citizen complaint that one of the trees about to be taken down contained a pair of nesting bald eagles.
Contractors have been clearing trees for the New Orleans to Venice levee on the Plaquemines Parish west bank.
On Wednesday, the corps said it would apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will establish a buffer zone around the nest. In the meantime, it’s ordered contractors to stay 1,500 feet away. On Wednesday, Dec. 23, Corps biologists will survey the area to see if any other nests are present.
“So, we just found out, we stopped the work,” said, Colonel Stephen Murphy, the Corps New Orleans District Commander.
While bald eagles have been removed from the Endangered Species List, the birds still enjoy protections under federal law, including a requirement for a 660-foot buffer around any active nest.
Murphy said the Corps ordered the contractor to maintain a 1,500-foot buffer.
That’s more than a quarter-of-a-mile around the nest,” Murphy noted. “I’ve got an employee on the way, a biologist to check out the site. So around the site, we’re taking care of the bird.”
The Corps said work on other parts of the project can continue without interruption.
“As a service member, I don’t think anybody’s going to recognize the value of an eagle more than somebody who defends it,” Murphy said.
Wildlife agents said they did not know whether the contractor was aware the nest existed.
If the Corps confirms the nest to have eggs, all work near the tree must stop until the eagles raise their young next spring.
Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.