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ODOT and EWEB build a new home for a neighbor
A crew moves an Osprey nest.
On a crisp, clear Sunday morning in February, ODOT District 5 electrician Brian Parks and crew member Jason Prenevost were in a boom truck bucket, being carefully lifted more than a hundred feet off the ground toward an illumination tower. Their task was to dismantle an osprey nest built atop the tower located near I-105 and Delta Highway in Eugene.
The nest was a fire hazard, a danger for the raptors and a threat to the motorists passing below. For the pair of mating osprey who had hatched and raised their offspring the previous season, the location was convenient to their food source of fish in the nearby Willamette River.
Ospreys, who have successfully increased their population since changes in pesticides and pesticide use began in the 1970s, return to the same location and often the very same nest for many nesting seasons. Their preference of a nesting site is a stand of tall firs, but with such sites disappearing in the Willamette Valley, the ospreys build their nests on other structures near rivers such as bridges, cell towers, power poles and illumination towers. If the nest on the Eugene tower were simply destroyed, the returning pair would most likely build it anew, putting themselves and ODOT’s $30,000 investment at risk.
That’s why ODOT partnered with Eugene Water & Electric Board by building and erecting a new nesting platform. It’s an effort to entice the returning pair to relocate their nest about 250 yards closer to the river. ODOT provided the location within its right of way, purchased the 120 foot wooden pole, and provided traffic control during the platform construction. EWEB supplied the expertise and materials needed for constructing the platform and the crane that lifted and placed the pole in the 14 foot deep shaft drilled by the utility the day before. It was a perfect blend of skills and equipment by two public agencies collaborating on a project of infrastructure protection and environmental sustainability.
The twigs and branches salvaged from the old nest were wired, in bunches, onto the new platform. Biologists say it’s unnecessary to rebuild the entire eight foot diameter, three foot deep nest on the new platform. It takes just a few bunches of the original nest materials for the returning ospreys to recognize their old home. They, then, build a new nest from surrounding materials.
Another key to successful nest relocation is the height of the platform. Experts have determined a new platform has to be at least as tall as the old location. In this case, the new platform is a few feet taller, which is considered preferable.
With the new platform up and ready, it now becomes a waiting game. Ospreys return to the valley in early April. Soon after, it should become clear if the platform will be the attractive alternative home site ODOT and EWEB hope for.