20 February 2009

Bird-Friendly Lighting Schedule for Omaha Pedestrian Bridge

A recent change in illuminating the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge at Omaha was the start of a schedule where the structure will pose a lesser threat to migrating birds.

[Omaha pedestrian bridge]

Omaha pedestrian bridge, showing the cables and deck, on a foggy October morning.

The 80-90 lights illuminating the cable are now turned off at 1 a.m., whereas they had been on throughout the night.

“We’ve now implemented the regular schedule for the lights,” said Steve Scarpello, administrator of the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department. “The lights had been on longer since they were being tested.”

“The current schedule is a pretty good way to do it, since it was not necessary to always have the lights on all night,” Scarpello said. The deck and pylon lights will remain on throughout the night for safety and legal reasons.

The lighting system was designed to be flexible in the times when used, and Scarpello noted the possibility of doing “anything we want” with their scheduling and use.

There will be less energy used with a reduction in the hours the lights are on.

Also, having the cable illumination turned off at 1 a.m., will help reduce the threat of confusing lights for a myriad of birds migrating along the Missouri River valley, in comparison to their being on throughout the night.

Lights out save birds' lives

Now that the lights are off late at night on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, this policy should remain in place through the first week in June.

The period of mid-April to the start of summer is when numerous wild birds migrate along the Missouri River valley. The bright lights of the bridge can confuse flying birds and very easily could cause birds of a number of species to strike the bridge cables and be killed immediately. Or they might be stunned, fall into the water and drown.

The policy of limited nightlights also should be in place from the last week of August through the end of October for autumn migrants. Turning the lights off can conserve birds and save money.

Monday, February 23, 2009. Letter in the Public Pulse, Omaha World-Herald 144(121): 6B.

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