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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fledgling birds stall bridge fix


The 94-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge is seen Wednesday, in Tacoma, stuck in the up position after opening for the Tall Ships Festival a week before. Repair efforts would put crews within arm's reach of a pair of fledgling peregrine falcons, and state Department of Transportation workers don't want to disturb them. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
The 94-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge is seen Wednesday, in Tacoma, stuck in the up position after opening for the Tall Ships Festival a week before. Repair efforts would put crews within arm's reach of a pair of fledgling peregrine falcons, and state Department of Transportation workers don't want to disturb them. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

TACOMA – As soon as the birds can go up, the bridge can go down.

Last week, the city raised the 94-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge to allow high-masted vessels from the Tall Ships Festival to come and go from the city’s Thea Foss Waterway. The rickety lift bridge, however, got stuck in the “up” position.

It’s a simple fix, repair crews say, but doing so would put them within arm’s reach of a pair of fledgling peregrine falcons, and state Department of Transportation workers don’t want to disturb the protected birds until they can fly.

They figure waiting two weeks will give the falcons time to get airborne.

“They’re within days of flying, and then we’ll get the green light,” Kip Wylie, bridge maintenance supervisor for the DOT, told the News Tribune of Tacoma. The repair is only expected to take 30 minutes or so.

“It’s not a difficult fix, it’s just something where (we’re) within an arm’s reach of the fledglings,” said agency spokesman Lloyd Brown. “The fear is that we would scare the fledglings off the perch and that would be disastrous for the baby birds.”

Bridge crews tried to lower the span Tuesday, after the tall ships had headed out into Puget Sound at the end of the July Fourth weekend festival. But an electrical pickup line came off its track and jammed, preventing the span from lowering into place.

An average 5,000 vehicles daily use the span, which links downtown with the industrial Tideflats. Most of its users will now take the Highway 509 bridge, about a half mile south, into downtown Tacoma, Wylie said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, city of Tacoma and Port of Tacoma have been advised.

“It’s an inconvenience,” Wylie said. “Everybody seems to understand the situation.”

Peregrines have nested on the bridge since at least 1998. One pair, dubbed Guy and Mickee, reared youngsters there for several years. They moved away last winter, Wylie said, and a new pair produced the fledglings that are there now.

Peregrine falcons were among the many birds threatened by the insecticide DDT, which was banned 30 years ago. They’ve rebounded since then, and federal officials lifted the bird’s Endangered Species Act protection in 1999. They still are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act.

The landmark bridge, named for Morgan, a Tacoma writer and historian, also is at risk. The DOT wants to demolish it next year due to the high cost of required safety improvements. City officials want to save it, so the parties have been in talks about transferring ownership to the city.

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