Discussions are underway to revise the City and Borough of Juneau’s ordinance relating to developments near eagles’ nests.
The current system has a different set of parameters for construction near nests on public and private lands, and it does not factor in whether a nest is being used or not, CBJ department of community development planning manager Travis Goddard said.
“It starts to get muddy immediately,” Goddard said of trying to interpret the current laws.
For nests on public ground, there is a strict set of rules for any development within 330 feet of the nest, but that same set of rules only apply to the closest 50 feet if the nest is on private land, with development between 50 and 330 feet of the nest still being restricted. There also isn’t a defined manner of dealing with issues where a nest is on public land, yet only 100 feet from a private plot.
City staff who have worked on this conceptual ordinance plan to eliminate the set of restrictions used for nests on public ground and center the law on the model currently in use for private land, Goddard said.
“This gives the inner zone of protection, but also a larger zone of flexibility,” he said.
The proposed update takes it a step further by also installing a programmatic approach to the approval process. Rather than developers having to get clearance for each stage of the project, they would be able to submit a timeline of their construction plans. The city could then evaluate if any portion of work would be occurring during nesting season — approximately April through September — and respond accordingly.
“We’re trying to fix the system, not just individual problems,” Goddard said.
More disruptive construction or development would typically be barred from happening within 50 feet of an active eagle nest, but the plan is to include the option for the developer to hire a third party eagle expert to monitor the eagles’ response to the construction.
“Not all eagles are the same,” Goddard said. He added that eagles that live near downtown may not be affected by noise that could cause eagles on the far side of North Douglas to abandon their nests and eaglets.
“We’re being really intentional that we’re making sure the eagle population is abundant in the future,” said Hal Hart, the city’s director of community development.
As the ordinance gets closer to the point where it would be proposed to the Assembly, there will be opportunities for the public to chime in their opinions on the matter, Hart said.
The current schedule is to have a final draft before the Assembly early next year.
There are federal protections for the eagles, but many of those decisions are based on more of a state-level view — meaning specific protection of the eagle population in this region is up to the city, Goddard said.
“Philosophically, we don’t have to do it, but the community wants a lot of (eagles) here,” he said. “It’s part of the Juneau experience.”