OAKLAND (KCBS) - Some 800 cormorants and other birds aren't ready to let go of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge, and that's starting to cost Caltrans some big money.
KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier reports that efforts to relocate the cormorants is now a $30 million plus headache.
Matier says the birds don't appear to be willing to move to the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Consultants who monitor the birds say the population is actually on the increase in recent years, with 533 nests observed during the last count, abut twice as many as were spotted while the new span was under construction.
"Caltrans and the Bay Bridge people are saying, 'not only do we have to move these, but we have to do it in nice way. We can't just go out there and start blasting away with firehouses of something that knocks their necks off,'" Matier said.
Caltrans saw the problem coming, and spent about a half a million dollars building small platforms into the new span. They are being called cormorant condos, designed as a place where the birds can make a new home. But birds of a feather are apparently picky about where they flock together.
"They are little two-and-a-half-foot wide little units that they're trying to get these birds to move in. They have even stocked them with former Christmas tree reefs to try to get them to use it as nesting, but they like where they are—they like the neighborhood."
Officials have been trying to convince the birds to make the move for about two years - spending roughly a million dollars in the process - but now they are running out of time. Matier and Ross report that Caltrans switched to plan B, actually speeding up the demolition to get the work done before next spring's nesting season. That speedup comes with a $12.5 million price tag. If the work isn't done by spring, demolition will have to stop during the upcoming nesting season.
The relocation project could require more than $17 million more to resolve in compliance with state requirements, leaving the total price tag at more than $30 million.
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