Work clearing trees along Celriver Road has gotten under way now that officials are fairly certain there are no endangered bats roosting in them.
Road work along a mile of Celriver near Cherry Road got started shortly after the official hibernation period for the northern long-eared bat – a species that was officially declared “threatened” last summer by the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service – began last month.
That status gives the bat a level of protection that includes restrictions on when states receiving federal highway money can disturb its habitat in 10 Upstate South Carolina counties, including York County.
The bat’s new protected status caused delays to road projects in York County and elsewhere. The city of Rock Hill hired a contractor two months earlier to move utility lines along Celriver ahead of a “Pennies for Progress” road-widening project, but couldn’t start work until any bats in the area had flown away to hibernate in caves for the winter.
Those restrictions didn’t cause too much of a delay for the Celriver project, said city transportation project manager Ivan McCorkle.
“It has to go through the (City) Council and we had to check the numbers” in bids submitted by contractors, he said. “That probably took a month and a half.”
Once the window opened, contractor Monroe Roadways moved quickly to begin removing trees. Even if the project continues beyond March 30, the end of hibernation season, most of the trees already have been cut down, so any bats that might return to Celriver then would have to nest elsewhere.