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Opinion

June 27, 2014

In Our Opinion: The eagle has landed in pipeline battle

“For my own part. I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly ... besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.”

Benjamin Franklin, if that excerpt from a letter he wrote from Paris in 1784 to his daughter, Sarah, is any indication, didn’t think much of the American bald eagle.

Apparently, that opinion was shared by and large by the Europeans who flooded into North America after 1492. They came upon a continent containing perhaps half a million eagles. But from habitat encroachment of humans to outright slaughter — more than 100,000 bald eagles were killed in Alaska from 1917 to 1953 because Alaskan fishermen believed they were a threat to the salmon population — to DDT poisoning, the eagle became an endangered species in 1973.

Happily, because of intensive conservation efforts, in 2007 the Department of Interior was able to take the bald eagle off the federal endangered and threatened species list.

But there is still something that makes us protective of the bird that is the symbol of our country, and therein lies the current battle between environmentalists and the backers of the proposed Constitution Pipeline.

Planners last week told federal regulators that bald eagle nests near bedrock blasted to make way for the pipeline wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the noise.

The pipeline pathway is within half a mile of two known bald eagle nests, with the closest one .35 miles from the route. That seems to be pretty close, but the Houston-based company points out that the nests are within 1,000 feet of Interstate 88.

“Given the existing noise and visual disturbance that these eagles tolerate from I-88 and the visual and noise buffers that exist between the pipeline and the nests, Constitution anticipates that the sound of any potential limited and controlled blasting activities is likely to be sufficiently dissipated to avoid disturbance of any eagle nesting behavior,” the pipeline report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated.

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