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Bat not in the way of Cass Road bridge rebuild

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

A bridge south of Traverse City could be rebuilt starting next year, and it turns out a troubled species of bat will not get in the way. The federal government is still weighing whether to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered or threatened.

Some drivers thought this would be the year they’d see a two-lane replacement for the outdated, one-lane bridge on Cass Road. Grand Traverse County officials had said the long-eared bat’s federal protection could mean a year’s delay of the project.

But now Road Commission Manager Jim Cook says that is not the reason.

“Yeah, there’s been some speculation that the Cass Road Bridge would be delayed because of the bat issue,” says Cook. “But the reality is, the soonest we could start this year would probably be the fall.”

Trees would have to be cut down for a new, wider bridge. And federal protection for the northern long-eared bat could mean logging is restricted in the summer. That’s when they live in trees and nurse their young. In the winter, they move to caves and mines to hibernate.

Cook says construction will likely start in the spring of 2016, ahead of any summer restrictions.

“Timing for the tree-clearing is probably not going to be a problem for us, regardless of what they decide on the bat.”

The bat is being decimated by White Nose Syndrome, particularly on the East Coast. But the illness has only been reported in a few Michigan counties, including the Lake Huron shoreline and parts of the U.P.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would likely restrict logging in only these troubled areas.

“You know we have quite a list of endangered and threatened species in the United States and, for the most part, people don’t see the activities and things that protect these species,” says spokeswoman Georgia Parham. “So probably the average person wouldn’t see any difference.”

The bat is ecologically valuable in part because it helps control pests that may harm farm crops and forests.

But it’s still up in the air whether the bat will be put on any list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until April 2nd to decide. Citizens have until March 17th to weigh in.

Go here for more information about the northern long-eared bat.