Federally Protected Bats Halt Construction
Plaistow -- The groundbreaking of a new public safety complex has been delayed by more than a month due to the discovery of endangered bats.
The tree adjacent to the current complex is likely the home to Northern Long-eared Bats. This species is federally protected. The construction project would impact a small portion of the tree line, so the Army Corps of Engineers has asked the town to put a hold on the work until the end of August, when the habitat cycle has ended for this species.
This set-back has made the tight $8.5 million budget almost impossible to meet.
"An unknown that came up last week was that we have, potentially, regulatory responsibility to protect the habitat for bats that live in a small area right adjacent to the safety complex. We're in a race against time and winter and escalation in costs," said Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald.
The bats were listed as a threatened species (one level below endangered) when a rapid decline hit their population in 2006. The decline was caused by a fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome.
Fitzgerald has said that the regulation has a one-acre minimum. The construction would have to disturb more than one acre of the bats' habitat. This project only plans to cut 1/4 of an acre of their habitat, so he's hoping to "seek relief" from regulators. However, he's not confident he can beat the system.
"I don't think we're going to prevail. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we've been in this before - turtles and bats and other things - and we just don't make any headway," Fitzgerald said.
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