Eagles Overlook US 17 ACE Basin – Segments 1 & 2A Construction
When it comes to widening or repaving a road, most people do not think about it aside from how it creates traffic, wishing the project would hurry up. What people do not realize is how much care and consideration go on behind the scenes that impact the project process.
Look at US 17 ACE Basin – Segments 1 & 2A in Beaufort and Colleton Counties, SC, one of nation’s most dangerous two-lane roads until widened by Davis & Floyd (D|F). The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) sought to widen the roadway and construct new bridges to improve its safety, while preserving the pristine estuary of the beautiful ACE Basin.
As the lead designer of the design-build team, D|F performed project management as well as prepared roadway, drainage, designs for three bridges, and environmental permitting and compliance.
What the project did not count on was American eagles.
One of the sectors at D|F is environmental, which offers a wide variety of services. Our environmental team completed an environmental assessment for the project. Through that process, our team members discovered a pair of American eagles less than 200 feet from the project.
The bird couple, who mate for life, would return every year to the same spot, staying from October to April to lay an egg.
“It was a unique challenge for sure. We couldn’t dump loads of construction fill material because the gate on the truck would flap,” shares Tommy Jordan, Vice President, and Environmental Manager at D|F. “Wildlife experts were worried the noise from the dump truck gate slamming shut would scare the eagles, causing the talons to crush the egg.”
After discovering the birds, our environmental team developed and implemented an Eagle Management Zone Plan once approved by government regulators, which included creating a radius of 660 feet around the nest as a buffer to control construction noises.
However, work still had to be done.
“The SCDOT contractor bought side dump trucks to quietly dump soil off to the side instead of the back,” says Tommy. “The noise levels were much quieter and helped to maintain schedule.”
Construction signs around the site for a “Quiet Zone” notified the crew not to slam tailgates, doors, and jake brakes, or use horns for a 1,000-foot section of the project.
Our environmental team developed and implemented noise restrictions, signage, and awareness training. Despite concerns and surprises, the construction crew adapted to the situation and implemented D|F’s plans for the new bridges and widened sections of US 17.
Thanks to the environmental team and crew’s care while working, two eaglets were born and reared during the project, allowing them to claim the ACE Basin as their home.