PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - WINK News has confirmed that nesting blue herons are costing Charlotte County taxpayers more than $5,000 per day.
Crews are supposed to be cleaning out Sunshine Lake, but now, the birds have put the project on hold.
"We'd sure love to have the beautiful lake back the way it was, 20 years ago," said Tom Larkin, whose home sits next to the Port Charlotte lake.
Larkin and his neighbors will have to wait even longer for the long-awaited algae cleanup project to wrap up.
County officials say the blue heron is to blame for the delays because they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"We can't actually do work (because officials) recommend staying 300 feet away from a nest," said project manager Joanne Vernon.
Vernon told WINK News that all work had to stop when crews found about 25 heron nests near Sunshine Lake. That was in April.
"We waited on those (eggs) to hatch," Vernon said. "We were waiting on one set of birds to leave the nests, when new eggs were laid."
Crews can't get back to work for another month, Vernon says, when the new chicks are expected to leave the nests.
Because of an agreement with ProLime Services, the months-long wait is costing Charlotte County a lot of money.
The agreement requires the county to pay the Michigan-based contractor $5,270 per day, five days a week, until the project is completed.
The cleanup project was originally slated to cost roughly $2.5 million. Now, it will cost more than $4 million.
Vernon said the money will come out of the county's Capital Projects Fund.
"It's definitely disappointing," Vernon said. "It's an unfortunate circumstance that we, unfortunately, had to deal with."
WINK News reached out to ProLime Services, which declined comment.