Local

Red Tail, Swainson's hawks delay Hwy 198 expansion

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The long-awaited expansion of Highway 198 between Visalia and Hanford -- could be delayed for months after the discovery of several protected birds.

Caltrans says Red Tail Hawks and Swainson's Hawks are nesting along seven spots on Highway 198 between Road 64 and Third Avenue.

Construction crews are hard at work paving the soon-to-be eastbound lanes of the Highway 198 expansion project. The new Highway 198 expressway was slated to be complete by August. Now, the discovery of Red Tail and Swainson's Hawks that are nesting along seven areas along the highway-- are moving the completion date to November. The fact that the hawks are nesting is what is keeping crews at bay.

Jose Camarena with Caltrans told ABC30, "That is the key word as soon as they establish a nest that's when we have to back off and give them room to finish what nature does."

Environmental impact reports for the project gave Caltrans clear warning that encountering the hawks' nests could be a potential set-back. Red Tail and Swainson's Hawks are legally protected in the United States.

Camarena says crews will have to keep a roughly 1200 foot radius around each of the seven spots during the two-to three month nesting period. Workers will continue to do what they can to move the project forward without disturbing those areas.

"We're doing a lot of concrete work a lot of heavy machinery work so that work does have to be suspended throughout the duration of that nesting period," Camarena said.

The protected areas take up 40-percent of the project. Caltrans wants to assure the public that the long-awaited Highway 198 expansion will still be finished in a timely manner.

Camarena said, "We have a lot of experts working on that and we'll get nature taken care of and then we'll get this project taken care of and completed."

The baby hawks are expected to be born soon and by July crews are hoping they can get back to work in the area.

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animal, visalia, hanford, kings county, tulare county, local, jessica peres
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