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Protected Swainson's Hawk Brings Vacaville Bridge Retrofits To A Halt

VACAVILLE (KPIX 5) -- There's a protected hawk bringing bridge construction to a halt in the Bay Area.

The protected Swainson's Hawk is delaying much needed repairs to some Interstate 80 overpasses.

Work was supposed to start this week on both the Midway and Meridian bridges, which cross Interstate 80, east of Vacaville.

The bridge retrofit could be delayed by as much as a year.

Plans changed when crews found a nest in nearby trees.

"These bridges are built back in the 50s and it's something we have to update and take care of," said Caltrans spokesman Vince Jacala.

But if anything can put a sudden halt to a construction plan along the Midway overpass, it's the Swainson Hawk.

"I see them all the time," said Makmoud, the owner of the Olive Tree Farm and Market right by the I-80 overpass.

Makmoud said the bird's eggs have not hatched yet.

The plan was to demolish the Midway Bridge and build a new one to meet seismic retrofit standards, but then biologists discovered the Swainson's hawk was nesting there.

Caltrans had to stop construction and can't work within 600 feet of the nest.

These birds are protected and have been on the state's threatened list since the 1980s.

"Everybody that builds in California and the Central Valley knows the rules of the game," said Judith Lamare, president of Friends of the Swainson's Hawk.

"Historically, there were about 17,000 Swainson's hawks, today there are about 4,000 breeding Swainson's hawks," Lamare said.

So for now crews will focus on the Meridian overpass just down the road, until the Swainson's hawk and its future family of hawks relocate to a new home.

Drivers should expect lane changes in the area around the Meridian overpass for the next three to six months.

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