Review planned of Canonsburg Lake bridge project near eagle habitat
There will be environmental studies of the proposed Canonsburg Lake bridge project because it’s near an area where bald eagles nested.
Replacement of the 74-year-old McDowell Lane Bridge, which links Peters and North Strabane townships, and, in essence, Route 19 with the Interstate 79 Canonsburg interchange, isn’t scheduled until 2019, but the public’s rapt attention to the raptors is sure to be a factor in the planning stages.
“The nest is where the houses are,” said Commission Vice Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan, who has seen the nest. “The tree is behind a townhouse. Right there are three.”
The Federal Highway Administration since 1966 has required an environmental review when waterfowl and wetlands are affected by a transportation project to avoid unintended consequences to wildlife and habitat. The law creating the review has striven to have a minimal impact on wildlife.
After becoming nearly extinct, the bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. According to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting and contamination of its food source, largely as a consequence of use of the pesticide DDT, decimated the eagle population. Killing, capturing or disturbing eagles is still illegal.
Documenting that an eagle or eagles live lakeside, which will be pointed out to contractors, is an unusual aspect of the project.
The two-lane bridge is to be widened at a cost of approximately $3 million during a six- to seven-month construction season. The replacement will be made up of two spans totaling 164 feet in length and 33 feet in width – 24 feet longer and 13 feet wider than the original.
Washington County taxpayers will be footing the bill for 20 percent of the bridge replacement costs. State taxpayers will be picking up the tab for the remainder.
Having to cope with a detour during the project will be local residents, Little Lake Theatre-goers and those who hope to dine at the Mad Mex Lakeside restaurant.
Lisa Cessna, director of the Washington County Planning Commission, which oversees the county bridge department, said there will be some additional engineering work to accommodate some revisions related to Fish and Boat Commission comments on its parking lot and some potential shore fishing improvements; investigation of accelerated construction methods to determine cost related to comments from business owners in the area and documentation of the eagle nest.
“I’ve seen one in flight when we were out there conceptualizing the project,” Cessna said of the avian national symbol.
When the project results in a closure, the proposed detour is 4.5 miles from the east entrance of the bridge; right onto Route 19 south; right onto McClelland Road; right onto McDowell Lane.