The discovery of a nest of swallow chicks has delayed a repair project on the 800-foot-long bridge spanning Lake Steilacoom.
The City of Lakewood imposed a weight restriction on the Interlaaken Bridge in December after a wooden beam that supports the bridge deck was found rotted.
Large vehicles, including buses, garbage trucks and tractor-trailers, can’t cross under the restriction. An average of 4,100 vehicles crossed each day before it was imposed.
A state Department of Transportation crew was putting up scaffolding earlier this month when workers discovered the nest with at least three chicks located three feet from the rotten beam, said Eric Swanstrom, the city’s project manager.
Swallows are migratory birds protected under state and federal law.
As a result, the project is delayed until the swallows are able to fly away. Swanstrom said that could take up to six weeks, although the WSDOT crew will check in on them in three weeks.
Swanstrom said crews are used to adjusting bridge work around the needs of migrating fish. But a nest of swallow chicks presents an unusual obstacle.
“This is the first time I’ve had a bird do this,” he said.
In other cases, WSDOT crews may work away from nests with eggs or chicks, relocate nests prior to nesting season or hang netting to prevent birds from nesting on bridges in the first place. But none of those options worked in this case.
Marion Carey, fish and wildlife program manager for WSDOT’s environmental division, said nesting birds interrupt bridge projects on occasion.
She said this case is unusual because swallow chicks typically have left the nest by now.
“This is later than we would expect them to have young ones nesting,” she said.
Lakewood contracted with WSDOT to replace the bridge beam. The project cost is $25,000.
The job, once restarted, will take no more than a week.
Passenger vehicles can continue crossing now and during the bridge email@example.com 253-274-7390