The 2 1/2 foot wide steel perches are being added to the eastern span of the Bay Bridge at a cost of $550,000. Double-Crested Cormorants have been roosting beneath the old span for more than 20 years.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist’s, Matier & Ross, poked fun at the Caltrans project in 2005: “The Bay Bridge boondoggle has something for everyone — even the birds.”
If the birds don’t take to the new digs on their own, biologists will try to entice them by painting cormorant silhouettes on the perches, playing recordings of cormorants and putting up mirrors on the platforms.
Then there’s the $750,000 that Caltrans is spending under a four-year contract for a small boat crew of binocular-armed ornithologists. Their job is to scour the old bridge for as much as 10 hours a week, keeping an official count of the cormorants along with a handful of endangered birds that inhabit the structure, including brown pelicans, peregrine falcons and least terns.
In reality, we’re trying to share the fragile bay waters with a lot of wildlife and this cost doesn’t seem to high to help the birds have new nesting areas when the old span – built in 1936 – makes way for a newer bridge in 2013. If we can spend $15 million on adding bike lanes to the bridge, another million and change seems fair.
And hello, it turns out measures to protect the cormorants are because of federal and state regulations to help native and endangered habitats.
The original Bay Bridge has been the subject of concern after since a top deck roadbed section collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989.