PORT ISABEL, Texas — Hundreds of Brown pelicans have been killed on Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel in recent years, but an upcoming construction project will hopefully reduce the devastating death toll.
During the fall and winter months, Brown pelicans struggling against strong north winds as they attempt to reach their roosting grounds in the Bahia Grande, crash into the concrete barriers along highway 48 in the vicinity of the Carl “Joe” Gayman Channel.
The solid four-foot high concrete walls atop the berm create a deadly down draft causing the low flying birds to literally fall out of the sky.
After years of study, the Texas Department of Transportation believes they have devised a solution. Later this summer they will begin removal of a portion of the solid concrete walls and install a new barrier that allows air to flow thru which is designed to eliminate the deadly downdraft.
Octavio Saenz, Public Information Officer Texas Department of Transportation, “The actual railings should be arriving in the area sometime in the month of July and construction should begin in August well in advance of the upcoming winter season.”
Boyd Blihovde, Manager Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, “This is really good news. This is a step in the right direction, and it is a good start.”
Many concerned citizens who have been risking their lives in recent years to rescue downed pelicans hoped for more extensive barrier removal and a reduced speed limit, and it remains to be seen how effective this limited approach will be.
“It is not all that we hoped to get, you know a total removal of the concrete barriers and putting something else in place, but they are going to be removing sections of concrete barrier in key places on the road shoulders. The center barrier as far as I know is still going to be in place.” Adds Blihovde.