Pismo approves a pigeon plan

In an effort to reduce the pigeon flock that resides under the Pismo Beach Pier — which has been blamed for a large share of the city’s water-quality problems in that area — the City Council last week approved a multiyear plan that includes installing netting under the pier in early 2012.

The council’s “Wildlife Management Plan” spans four years and could cost $100,000 to $335,000, depending on how many different strategies are used to reduce the bird population during that time, according to Dwayne Chisam, the city’s public works director.

In the first year, the city staff will continue enforcing its law against feeding the birds, cover trash cans, and reduce the amount of fresh water on the beach with storm drain improvements to the plaza area in front of the pier. Repair work to the pier this winter will also include blocking some roosting sites.

The second year, the city staff plans to install the netting, at an estimated cost of $100,000 to $200,000. During the blocking and the netting, the staff plans to work with a local group to relocate the live birds nesting under the pier, Chisam said.

Depending on the results of water quality monitoring in the area, the city may move to step three: using falcons or predatory birds to reduce the population, at an estimated cost of $111,000 to $124,000; and, in the fourth year, hand-feeding the birds birth control pellets, at a cost of $11,000.

In August, the council heard results from a three-year study produced by Cal Poly’s Environmental Biotechnology Institute.

It found that the high counts of pigeon droppings near the pier, the number of E. coli strains that match bird fecal sources, and a survey of the large number of pigeons counted at the pier suggest that the birds are the main source of high bacteria levels in surrounding water.

Other California cities have successfully confronted similar problems, including Oceanside and Santa Monica, the latter of which installed netting under its pier and has since received improved water quality grades from the Los Angeles based-group Heal the Bay.

The same group gave the ocean at Pismo Beach pier a “D” grade in its annual End of Summer Beach Report Card in October 2009. This year, the monitoring station at the pier received a “C.”

Ninety-five percent of the county’s beaches received an “A” or “B.”

In 2007, the council voted to hire a pest control firm to trap and kill the pigeons, but it changed its mind after protests from the public and the national animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The council instead began negotiating with a group to relocate the birds, but that effort fell through when the parties failed to agree on a proposal.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.