MADERA COUNTY — Caltrans will be having a look at whether or not there are Swainson’s Hawks in the Highway 41 project area, where passing lanes are being added along 1.7 miles just north of the 22 Mile House.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has asked that Caltrans “cease all activity in Drainage Systems 1, 3-13, until the project is brought into compliance with the Streambed Alteration Agreement.”
In an email to County officials today, Caltrans Project Manager Anand Kapoor said that Environment staff is providing CDFW with all requested information and has a meeting with them tomorrow.
At issue is the Streambed Alteration Agreement for the project which requires Caltrans to complete protocol level Swainson’s Hawk surveys.
“The surveys were completed in March and April by a biological consultant,” says Kapoor in the email. “The consultant concluded that there were no active Swainson’s Hawk nests within 0.5 miles of the project and that no further action was required.”
The CDFW reportedly does not agree that the consultant followed protocol and has asked Caltrans to stop construction at the drainage systems until Sept. 1. Caltrans believes that the protocol was followed and that the survey results are valid.
Scott Friesen, interim Project Manager, says work on the project will not be delayed, as there are plenty of other areas within the project site where work will continue.
“We are still able to continue with the paving operations and culverts are already in place,” says Friesen. “The work that is currently being delayed is the culvert headwall placement and rock slope protection at the headwalls, but these are not critical path items at this point.”
The surveys for the hawk will be conducted next Wednesday, June 15, and those findings discussed with CDFW. If the hawk is not found to be present, this will be a non-issue. If it is, “we’ll go from there,” says Friesen. In the meantime, work on the project will continue, just not in those specific locations.
Caltrans hopes to have a decision by Monday, June 20.