BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — They’ve returned, but this time Walmart is ready.
Once again, seagulls have descended upon the former Lockport Mall site, which is slated to one day be the Town of Lockport’s Walmart Supercenter. The birds have interfered with the construction process twice before, last summer and in 2011 during the mall demolition.
In both situations, the seagulls were nesting on the grounds. Being a federally protected species, seagulls cannot be forcibly removed, which led to the halting of the Walmart construction. The retail giant did not want to move forward until the birds were gone.
Buffalo Exterminating was out on the mall site Tuesday, not harming the seagulls but instead getting rid of any nesting materials, said Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith. The firm was hired by Walmart.
“They’re making sure there are no nests on the site,” Smith said.
Walmart did not take any action before the last two nesting seasons. Seagulls nest from the end of March until August, during which the birds cannot be disturbed, as per federal law. The thought is, if the seagulls do not establish nests, then they should take off shortly, Smith said.
The Walmart saga has seen a number of holdups over the past few years. Prior to the seagulls, the project was tied up in a number of court battles. All of the court cases were thrown out in 2010. One last suit by Clean Water Advocates was thrown out in October.
Lockport’s 185,209 square-foot center will replace the current Walmart, located less than half a mile south of the mall on South Transit Road. There are about 200 people working at the current Walmart.
Walmart bought the former Lockport Mall site in a deal that closed Dec. 23 of 2010. The retailer bought the South Transit property for $3.95 million from General Growth Properties of Chicago.
Walmart did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The company began site work in October, putting in water, sewer, gas and electric connections. The soil remediation has been completed, Smith said. But other than that, not even the town is aware of what’s going on with the Walmart site.
“I hope they get started soon,” Smith said. “We’ve got some interested parties in the current (Walmart) building.”Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.