The trouble started a year ago when “a federally endangered Indiana bat woke from hibernation in her Tennessee cave and traveled to a north Georgia forest,” according to a news release last month from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “The finding is significant for the conservation and recovery of this insect-eating dynamo.
The bat had not been documented in Georgia since 1996 and is battling a deadly disease across its range that spans most of the Eastern half of the U.S.” Now the species may be spreading over north Georgia.
It’s all very exciting for Fish & Wildlife biologists, but it’s a major problem for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Almost 60 road projects in north Georgia are being delayed because the GDOT has to hire experts to find the tiny bats using an acoustic device and mist nets to capture them and attach tiny transmitters to the critters. An additional 50 projects could be affected.
Aside from the delays in road construction, the cost of finding and catching the bats runs “between $80,000 to $120,000 for each project,” the GDOT’s Jill Goldberg told WSB-TV. That could mean $8 million or more total cost to taxpayers before the last project is cleared.
Among the work affected by the bats was the widening of two-lane Highway 92 at the Cobb and Paulding County line.
But the Federal Highway Administration is not completely blind to the problems caused by finding a few bats.
In late March, that agency and the Fish & Wildlife Service announced an agreement with GDOT “to green-light a number of land purchases for high-priority road-building projects even before bat surveys have been completed.”
These projects, according to Fish & Wildlife, “are ones that would be designed in the same manner whether or not bats were present.” But, of course, the projects will have to “undergo appropriate levels of environmental review before construction begins.”
Proving that finding an “endangered species” does not necessarily require stopping everything, the federal agencies approved some Georgia projects including the widening of I-75 and I-575 “with essentially no delays,” Fish &Wildlife said.
Bat watchers spent a scant five nights surveying for bats — and: “In just three days the service recommended approval” for the project to move forward.
That’s how the process should work. If it can be done with five days of surveying and three days to recommend approval for the interstate project, why should there be long delays and costly hunts for bats in the vicinity of other projects in Georgia?
The range of the Indiana bat is “most of the Eastern half of the U.S.” So it’s not like the ones found in Georgia are the only ones existing.
Take five days surveying and then get on with the construction. No need to go batty about this.