Proposed New High-Rise Development Seems to Violate TPWD Guidelines for Bald Eagle Habitat Protection
A review of Texas Parks and Wildlife Departments’ guidelines for eagle habitat protection reveals that the proposed Kingwood Marina and high-rise development appears to have some permit issues circling overhead.
No Environmental Impact Statement Prepared by Developer
Developers of the proposed massive high-rise complex claim they found no bald eagle nests on their property. Therefore, they claimed, there was no need to conduct and environmental impact survey. However, I photographed this bald eagle nest approximately 500 feet from their property. GPS data is encoded in the image.
Texas Parks and Wildlife considers bald eagles, a threatened species. Bald eagles were taken off the endangered list in 2007, but still enjoy many protections as a threatened species.
Bald Eagles Still Threatened, Habitat Protected
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668d) prohibits activities that interfere with eagles’ shelter, breeding and feeding. It provides criminal penalties ranging from fines up to $5,000 and up to one year in prison.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Habitat Management Guidelines for Bald Eagles in Texas elaborate on what that interference means.
Activities Discouraged within Management Zones
The guidelines state the following under: “Primary Management Zone For Nest Sites.” “This zone includes an area extending 750 to 1,500 feet outward in all directions from the nest site. It is recommended that the following activities not occur within this zone:
- “Habitat alteration or change in land use, such as would result from residential, commercial, or industrial development; construction projects; or mining operations.”
- “Tree cutting, logging, or removal of trees, either living or dead.”
- “Human presence within this zone should be minimized during the nesting season…”
The same TPWD guidelines also stipulate a “Secondary Management Zone For Nest Sites.
- “This zone encompasses an area extending outward from the primary zone an additional 750 feet to 1 mile. Recommended restrictions in this zone are intended to protect the integrity of the primary zone and to protect important feeding areas, including the eagle’s access to these areas. The following activities are likely to be detrimental to Bald Eagles at any time, and in most cases should be avoided within the secondary zone:”
- “Development of new commercial or industrial sites.”
- “Construction of multi-story buildings or high-density housing developments between the nest and the eagle’s feeding area.”
- “Use of chemicals labeled as toxic to wildlife.”
How Management Zones Overlay Development Plans
Here’s how the radii of the management zones overlay the outline of the proposed high-rise development and marina areas. The nest is at the center of the red lines.
To see the proposed development within the white outlines follow this link to the architect’s web site. It features a 3D fly-though video of a computer-rendered animation.
Impact on Eagle Nesting and Feeding
My first impression: Massive. From my point of view, the proposed development clearly does not meet TPWD guidelines.
- Virtually the entire development would fall within management and secondary management zones.
- High-rises and high-density housing would be built between the nest and Lake Kingwood where residents often report eagles fishing.
- Marina operations for 700 boats and 200 jet skis would almost certainly leak chemicals during refueling and maintenance. That could poison both eagles and fish.
- Trees would be removed from most of the area.
Emily Murphy has also photographed eagles flying over the developers’ property and adjacent river.
One of Many Factors Being Considered
The Corps will review the developers’ application in accordance with 33 CFR 320-322, from which the Corps derives its regulatory authority. The decision whether to approve the permit will be based on “an evaluation of the probable impacts, including the cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest.”
The permit could be denied based on wildlife impact concerns alone. However, eagles are just one of the problems this proposal has. I hope that when all factors are weighed, pro and con, that the cons will vastly outnumber the pros.
So keep sending those letters to the Corps. Encourage your friends and relatives to send them also, even if they live outside of Kingwood. You might also want to copy TPWD and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/27/2019
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