Bird Brains on Bay Bridge

They may be a protected species but the double-crested cormorants and other birds that call the old Bay Bridge home are fast becoming a $33 million pain in the rear.

As crews disassemble the 10,000-foot-long steel structure where the birds roost, they’ve had to carefully deal with state and federal environmental laws designed to protect the birds.

As a result the take down of the bridge has suffered tens of millions of cost overruns and months of delays.

And the spending is moronic.  For example, Caltrans is spending $709,000 to build 2½-foot-wide nesting “condos” on the underside of the new bridge, in the hopes that the 800 or so state-protected cormorants would move off the old span.

An additional $1 million has been spent to try to lure the birds over to the new bridge, using bird decoys, cormorant recordings and even nests made from recycled Christmas wreaths.

Problem is the birds haven’t budged, so now Caltrans is speeding up the demolition in the hopes of beating next spring’s nesting season because, once the birds start laying eggs, all work has to stop.

What’s more, to comply with its federal permit, Caltrans agreed to send any displaced chicks and eggs to a bird rescue center in Fairfield for foster care until the birds are old enough to be released.

The cost of the speedup is estimated to be $12.5 million.

As part of that effort, Caltrans has placed nets over part of the old span to keep the birds away.  They’ve even requested another  $1.6 million for more netting.

But the birds won’t go away and their numbers are increasing.

So, typical of big government, more money has been spent on consultants hired to monitor the bird population.  They’ve found 533 cormorant nests on the bridge this year — double the number counted three years ago.

Government officials now estimate they may need an additional $17.1 million to deal with the bird problem before it’s all over.

The San Francisco Chronicle estimates that would bring bridge spending on the various protected birds to more than $33 million. Including financing the new bridge will cost taxpayers $17 BILLION.

Cormorants may be protected but they are hardly endangered.  You can’t find a corner of the massive San Francisco Bay without the creatures flourishing.  I say toss their nests into the Bay, deconstruct the bridge, and not a even a slight dent will be made to their numbers.

Brian Sussman

Reader Interactions


  1. Sophie Olivia says

    Why can’t they just scare off all the birds at once, and as soon as they fly off in a flock, role netting down each side of the old bridge? Then, if there are any nests already on the bridge, workers could later go get them and either place them on the new bridge, or take them back to a facility, hatch them, then release them, that way, they are protecting the bird and causing less fatalities among the young cormorants?

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