Chicken-Fried News: Bats crazy 

click to enlarge INGVARD ASHBY
  • Ingvard Ashby

Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) has a project to rebuild a stretch of Oklahoma Highway 16 between Okay and Wagoner, and (surprise) it's going to take longer than anticipated.

But this time, bats are to blame. Kind of.

Although ODOT studied the Highway 16 project and took precautions years before, some factors like Oklahoma’s rainy fall meant the water impacts needed to be looked at again, spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell told Tulsa World. Officials want to evaluate if runoff from the job site affects water quality near a population of endangered gray bats.

“So we stopped the project and re-evaluated everything, and that includes the water quality and what it means for the bats,” she said.

The project has been on hold for about a month now as transportation officials look into the water quality. Studies so far show little impact on the surface waters, but the final report is not out yet. Mitchell estimates they can get the worksite up and running within the next two months if the water quality remains unaffected.

It might sound crazy, but this is actually a good reason to pause the highway project. If nearby surface water quality is affected, the bats’ main source of food — aquatic insects — won't be attracted to areas where they forage. And if the endangered gray bats don't get food, they won't have energy to migrate or reproduce, which could be a detriment to their overall survival.

It's an odd time in Oklahoma when we're glad a highway project is being stalled, but that is where we are at, folks. We at Chicken-Fried News are not particularly big fans of bats, but they eat mosquitoes, so kudos to ODOT for taking steps to protect their survival.

Now if they could just hurry up and finish Oklahoma City Boulevard.

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