Irene Damage Ruins Waterfowl Refuge

HATTERAS - Migrating water birds that find refuge on North Carolina's Outer Banks are not coming this year, in part because of damage from Hurricane Irene.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., reports that the hurricane that hit Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge five months ago ripped a hole in a pond and drained it.

The 5,800-acre wildlife refuge on the north end of the island is known as a birders' paradise that attracts almost 3 million people a year.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dennis Stewart says the government hopes to patch the breach that's expected to be up to 14 feet deep by the end of March. Stewart says the costs are still being weighed, but funding is in place to start the project.

In a Thursday, Jan 19, 2012 photo, three endangered whooping cranes, two immature birds, second and third from left and a mature, all white, right, walk among a flock of sandhill cranes at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Ala. A conservation effort involving an ultralight plane leading endangered whooping cranes south for the winter has been forced to stop short of its Florida destination, with officials deciding Thursday to stay in Alabama. Operation Migration has experienced delay after delay, mostly due to weather, since leaving central Wisconsin Oct. 9. It will be the first time in the 11 years of the effort to save the birds in the eastern part of the United States that a class won't make it to their wintering home at two wildlife refuges in Florida. (AP Photo/The Huntsville Times, Dave Dieter)

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