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DOT says Bolding Bridge is safe, but bird's nest had to go before repairs
Damage done to Bolding Bridge on Ga. 53 includes several bent crossbeams. - photo by MIKE CLEMENTS

An engineer with Georgia Department of Transportation said Bolding Bridge is structurally sound, despite damage to crossbeams.

A DOT official said the need for repairs necessitated Thursday’s removal of an osprey nest on the bridge, though residents say the birds have returned.

Mike Clements, the state bridge maintenance engineer, said Bolding Bridge needs quite a bit of repair.

"There are three vertical members that have to be replaced, but there are a lot of vertical members that have to be worked on and there is a tremendous amount of horizontal members," he said.

"What I am trying to do is get a task order together so we can get the engineering done. There is no imminent danger ... it looks nasty but we’ve got time here to work on it. But we don’t have months; we don’t have years. I want to get this done in the next six months."

Accidents on the bridge over the years have caused the horizontal metal beams to be bent in places, many showing signs of rust.

The DOT is inspecting Bolding Bridge every 90 days instead of the two-year norm.

"That means a bridge inspector that looks at these things constantly and then the vision, the district maintenance folks, are out there just about every week looking at it," Clements said. "So we have an eye on what’s going on here. All the horizontal members all the way down the bridge have to be done and there’s about half of them that I’m going to have to cut out and replace and about half of them we can try and heat straighten and just correct them that way."

Clements said he isn’t sure how much money or time will be needed for repairs.

"When we do the work we will be doing it on the weekends, my plan is to shut it down on the weekends and get out there and do it," he said. "How many weekends that’s going to take I don’t know right now.

"The bridge is in excellent shape and it’s worth putting the money into it to keep it."

Though repair is scheduled for the bridge, DOT said the removal of the nest was important to get done before the osprey laid an egg.

The bird, which nests there once a year before migrating south, falls under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is protected under migratory birds division. A permit is required to remove an osprey nest under certain conditions.

"What I understand is once the egg is there, there is a long period that I can not get in there to do that bridge," Clements said. "So what we had to do was take care of the potential problem of having an egg there so that we are able to get in there and work.

"So what I was told by GDOT Environmental, which was in turn they checked with DNR (Department of Natural Resources), it was the egg and as long as there is no egg that it was OK to remove it. I was told, they will come back and we’re going to start pushing the nest off and we won’t give them a chance of getting that egg there."

But nevertheless, residents are upset about the removal of the osprey nest.

Michael Chadwick, who lives in view of the osprey nest, said he saw DOT employees remove the nest.

"He was in a bucket truck, he took a pole ... and punched it with that pole a couple times and knocked it off the bridge into the water," he said. "They (the ospreys) were up high, he had scared them off ... they were up circling high but they were around. They (DOT employees) weren’t thinking, they angered everyone around here, everyone loves those birds."

Chadwick said he has watched the osprey for about three seasons now.

"They fish, they’ll dive down and you’ll see them catch a fish and they’ll come out of the water with it in their talons and take it up to that nest, sometimes you can watch them eat it.

"They have their job to do, I understand that, but I think ... that bridge has been there for over 50 years now ... and stay away from those birds."

Plans are in the works to create wooden platforms for the osprey to nest on but there is not a platform planned for the Bolding Bridge area.

"The only spot near there that we could put one was sort of out in the water and the (U.S. Army) Corps didn’t want to do that for boat safety reasons," said Ken Riddleberger Jr., region supervisor for Northeast Region II. "I doubt seriously that if we put a platform there that they (the birds) would immediately swap over to it. The one thing about osprey’s is that they have very high site fidelity, so once they pick a place that’s sort of where they want to go until they get harassed enough they will move somewhere else."

Riddleberger said he hopes that the nine or 10 platforms will be in place before the next nesting season.

"We actually have a couple sites that we have picked out to put them at and Georgia Power is going to be providing the poles and the truck to put the pole up," he said. "It’s just a telephone pole with a big square platform on top that they would nest in."

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