Denton City Hall

Denton City Hall

More than four months after they suspended a program to install LED lights on residential streets amid council members’ concerns about how they affected the migratory bird population, Denton Municipal Electric officials are expected to ask on Tuesday to restart the initiative.

But that could come with changes.

The Denton Record-Chronicle on Jan. 8 reported that wildlife rehabilitator Diana Leggett and James Bednarz, a conservation biologist at the University of North Texas, said the $4 million project to replace high-pressure sodium bulbs typically used to illuminate large outdoor areas is adversely affecting migratory birds. Three days later, the program was halted.

During a Denton City Council work session on Tuesday, according to city documents, staff members will recommend contracting an engineering firm to conduct a lighting assessment for residential areas, determine if lighting levels are adequate, assess the need for more lights in unlit or underlit residential areas and develop lighting standards for Denton.

They also will recommend following the International Dark Sky Association model for top fixtures for all new installations, addressing dimming and shielding as requested and dimming to 60% of maximum brightness in residential areas.

In September 2019, council members approved the purchase of LED lights to replace high-pressure sodium lights. That work began in February 2020. About 8,800 streetlights are in the city system.

Bednarz told the Record-Chronicle in January that some lighting — and too much of it — changes the migration of birds, especially here, and that they are naturally attracted to light and often become disoriented. At the same time, Leggett said Denton “just completely undid the flyway going from the Arctic” when officials began installing blue lights “that illuminate hundreds of yards.”

A flyway is the path migratory birds take while traveling from one region to another.

About 3,800 lights have been replaced since council members’ approval in 2019. Leggett has said she is part of the national Lights Out program that advocates for the reduction of light pollution by building owners during migration periods. She and Bednarz said birds help reduce the mosquito population. They also pollinate plants, spread seeds and contribute in other ways to the ecosystem.

The Lights Out program encourages residents to turn off lights in buildings and outdoors from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from April 19 to May 7 and from Sept. 5 to Oct. 9 to mitigate the impact on migration patterns.

Tuesday’s work session is scheduled for 3 p.m.

PAUL BRYANT can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @paulbryant_DRC.

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