BART's board is poised on Thursday to approve spending $5 million to reimburse contractors who have spent the last year doing everything in their power to ward off birds - many of them federally protected - which have been nesting and laying eggs along the railway lines under construction from Fremont to San Jose.
The money has gone to pay for biologists, an "air dancer" typically seen waving around at used car lots, tarps, tree removal and other services - all in an effort to get rid of the birds without killing them.
BART project manager Paul Medved said the birds, including red-tailed hawks and morning doves, love this area of Warm Springs in Fremont near Lake Elizabeth, because it is a migratory path for them. But this bird-friendly spot is also where BART is building a $148-million, mile-long railway extension down to the South Bay.
Medved told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday that while this may seem like a lot of money, paying the contractors for their work in shooing away the birds peacefully is a lot less expensive than paying the contractors not to work while the birds nest and lay eggs. It is against federal law to disturb the protected birds' habitat once they have established their nests.
The taxpayer funds, Medved added, is coming from an emergency "contingency" fund, and is not to be considered as a cost overrun.
The BART line, which is almost complete, is part of an $890-million, 5.4-mile extension into the Warm Springs district of southern Fremont and is expected to open in three years. It's the first leg of a rail line slated to reach Milpitas and San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood by 2018.
The whole situation has taken the BART construction crew by surpise, Medved said, noting that the flying creatures didn't seem to be bothered a bit by the jackhammers, cranes and other loud noises.
"The birds didn't mind the contruction," he said. "What we didn't expect was a bird emergency."