PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery adjusted the schedule of a major expansion project to protect some baby birds.
A contractor doing some survey work related to the expansion project made the unusual discovery.
"They were identified as Great Horned Owls. They are a protected species. So, wanted to make sure we did everything possible to secure their safety and keep them from being harmed," said Randy Thweatt of Chevron.
The birds appear quite healthy and are just a few weeks away from flying off the nest, which is located inside a small structure atop an elevator shaft, 125 feet in the air. Chevron put the demolition of structure on hold until the owls are gone. The company also enacted a "do not disturb" restriction.
"Put an exclusion zone around the area of 75 feet so we don't have workers disturbing them. The workers that were scheduled to demolish the elevator were redirected to other parts of the project. We've actually stopped that part of the demolition until the owls grow their wings and fly away on their own," Thweatt explained.
The planned demolition is part of the $1.4 billion base oil expansion project, which involves both new construction and in this case, modifying of existing plant structures. Delaying the demolition won't affect the completion date of the refinery expansion.
"Anytime you change plans of schedule, there's going to be some impact. We're going to be able to absorb that impact. But that wasn't the key issue for us here. We wanted to make sure we did the right thing and take care of the owls," Thweatt said.
The nesting owls may be a first, but wildlife around the refinery is nothing new. We spotted great egrets in the waterway that borders the plant. Still, finding baby owls atop an elevator shaft, is definitely something different.
"It's an unusual place for an owl to call home, for sure," says Thweatt.
Wildlife experts say from the time they hatch, it's usually about six weeks until young owls fly off the nest. Since this pair was discovered about two weeks ago, it should be just a few more weeks until they vacate their elevator home.