Local News

State moves to haze birds off Astoria Bridge

Expect loud noises and intermittent traffic delays on the Astoria Bridge today as crews test out techniques to clear double crested cormorants from the bridge.

The bridge is scheduled to be under construction for protection work and painting this summer and the increased presence of cormorants on the bridge has become a problem.

Traffic today could be held up for no more than 20 minutes during this first test of the bird hazing techniques.

Cormorants have nested in large numbers on the bridge in recent years. Beginning in 2015, the U.S. Army Corps launched a management program for a massive double-crested cormorant colony on East Sand Island at the mouth of the Columbia River. The plan included shooting thousands of cormorants, destroying nests and eggs and reshaping desirable habitat on the island to reduce the colony’s numbers.

The Corps and its partners argued the birds ate too many young threatened and endangered salmon each year. The cormorants later completely abandoned the island multiple times.

The Corps wrapped up its management actions on East Sand Island in 2018, but the cormorants have not nested there successfully in any significant numbers since.

Instead, they moved to the Astoria Bridge.

Now the state says the cormorants’ guano is damaging the bridge’s protective paint job and making it difficult to complete maintenance work and federally-required inspections.

The state is working with staff from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to deter the birds from the Astoria Bridge. They plan to use sound cannons that make a loud bang noise and small projectiles that make different noises combined with flashes of light.

The state says travelers will not be able to see the crews at work, but they could hear the results. People might also see crews on the bridge underdeck using the equipment and see birds scattering.

KMUN will have more in-depth reporting on the cormorants and the debate around them in coming days.