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Saturday February 6th, 2016 2:26AM

Osprey piers part of bridge replacement plans

By Derreck Booth Anchor/reporter
GAINESVILLE - As Georgia Department of Transportation officials plan to replace Bolling Bridge on Dawsonville Highway in Hall County, some bridge dwellers will get new homes.

The bridge trusses are home to two osprey nests. DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the birds are not native to Georgia. Elachee Nature Science Center officials believe the birds were blown inland and found Lake Lanier, according to Pope. She said the ospreys have been there around four to five years.

While they're not native to the area or endangered, Pope said the Migratory Bird Act requires DOT give them new homes.

"They're covered by federal law, so it's almost like a relocation of their home. When we buy somebody's property, we have to help them get a new home. We're doing that for the osprey too," Pope said.

Transportation officials plan a pier on each side of the bridge to serve as nesting locations because the new bridge will not have overhead trusses.

"The piers will be about the same height as the trusses are now because they (ospreys) like to be way above the water, and we've worked really closely with DNR to develop the size pier and the height exactly like they need it," Pope said.

The original nests in the current span will be taken down for demolition, but not during nesting season, according to Pope. Officials are confident the birds will build nests on the new piers.

"We have removed their nests once when we were doing a maintenance project a couple of years ago on the bridge, and they did come back and build," Pope said.

As far as the actual bridge project, DOT officials estimate it will be let for bidding in fiscal year 2015. The estimated total bridge replacement project cost is $15.2 million. Pope did not immediately know the projected cost of the osprey piers.

Pope commented Thursday in Gainesville at the Annual Transportation Forum sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
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