Owls Delay Construction of New School in Martinez - NBC Bay Area
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Owls Delay Construction of New School in Martinez

Martinez school district officials said a nearly 100-year-old federal law requires them to wait for the owl's babies to leave the nest before construction can resume.

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    A recently discovered owl and several of her eggs nestled inside a large palm tree is contributing to a series of roadblocks that has delayed construction for a new East Bay school. Elyce Kirchner reports. (Published Monday, March 28, 2016)

    A recently discovered owl and several of her eggs nestled inside a large palm tree is contributing to a series of roadblocks that has delayed construction for a new East Bay school.

    Martinez school district officials said a nearly 100-year-old federal law requires them to wait for the owl's babies to leave the nest before construction can resume. The delays are coming at a cost of $1 million.

    "It has been a nightmare and created a few extra grey hairs," said Bruce Leslie with the Martinez school district.

    Leslie oversees the construction of the new Vicente Martinez Briones Independent Study Schools Campus.

    The series of roadblocks for building the new school include the district struggling to find a suitable location. Once the district found a location to build on Susana Street they found another obstacle contributing to the delays.

    "We found that there was some contaminated soil with lead paint with the original Alhambra Union High School that was built here 100 years ago," Leslie said.

    And then the district discovered the owls.

    "It's a federal law about migratory and rafters," Leslie said. "You can't disturb the nest. You have to wait until there are no babies in there and then you can take the nest out."

    The delays have not been cheap for the district.

    Martinez Unified School District Superintendent Rami Muth said the district has spent an extra $1 million on the project because of the delays.

    "We had thought we would actually be able to construct a school and move mid-year this year," Muth said. "Now it's delayed. It's not going to happen this year."

    School officials have also hired a biologist to go up and inspect the owl and eggs.

    Students are being house in another, older building nearby while construction is on hold.

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