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Wreck on bridge earlier this year causes DOT to remove ospreys' home
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Listen as Mohamed Arafa, district communications officer at the DOT office in Cartersville, talks about the reasons behind moving the osprey nest.

The Georgia Department of Transportation removed an osprey nest Thursday morning from the top of Bolding Bridge on Ga. 53.

The removal of the birds’ nest was necessary, according to DOT officials, because of repairs needed following a March accident where a truck damaged several upper crossbeams.

"In early March a vehicle hit the truss bridge and did some damage to what we call the horizontal members that keeps the vertical members separate. It maintains the integrity of the bridge and it’s safety," said Mohamed Arafa, district communications officer at the DOT office in Cartersville. "Three of these members were damaged; however we did the inspection and it does not warrant emergency repair."

Rather, instead of inspecting the bridge every two years — the usual time frame for bridge inspections, he said — officials would inspect it every three months.

"We are going to inspect it every 90 days to make sure that it is still safe, and it is safe now," Arafa added.

Arafa said that DOT inspectors were at the bridge on March 12 for an inspection but no repairs are scheduled.

"If they decide that the bridge needs emergency repair we will immediately close the bridge and have a contract to do the repair, usually on the weekends," he said.

Drivers who frequent Dawsonville highway on their daily commutes have watched the osprey nest atop on Bolding Bridge for years. So when DOT closed one lane of the bridge on Thursday to remove the nest, drivers noticed.

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.

"If the nest was empty, my understanding is that would have not needed a permit," said Jim Ozier, nongame program manager of the Department of Natural resources’ Wildlife Resources Division in Macon. "In fact, that’s what my discussion with them (DOT) had been back in I guess February or March, I had actually checked the nest when I flew over back in March when I was doing some bald eagle surveys and confirmed that the nest was empty at that time."

That conversation meant the DOT had the green light to remove the nest back in March. But Ozier said he doesn’t understand what took the DOT so long to remove it.

"With the understanding that if they were going to remove it, they would have done it immediately while it was still empty," he said. "The fact that they waited this long surprises me a little bit."

Carmen Simonton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, added that for repair purposes the DOT would have to wait until there were no eggs in the nest for repair work to begin.

"Here it’s just in the way for them to do their maintenance or repair work ... once there are no eggs or young, at the federal level they can take the nest down without a permit," she said.

Arafa agreed that there were no birds in the nest when DOT employees checked the nest Thursday.

"There were no birds or eggs when they did that. ... they checked April 30 at 3 p.m.," he said. "It’s not something that we see every day; we have rules and procedures for it ... what concerns us the damage that was done to the bridge."

As of now there are no repairs for the bridge’s three damaged horizontal beams.

"We try to build and maintain a safe transportation system with a healthy dose of environmental sensitivity," Arafa said. "We live here, too. We share the air, we share the water ... this is our environment, too. I don’t know, it could have been an individual mistake by our guy, I’m not familiar with what happened exactly."

Arafa added that he was not sure if special permission was required to remove the bird nest.

"When it comes to safety the safety of the traveling public DOT does not compromise," he said. "If it is unsafe we will immediately close it."

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