Perfect Perch: Duke Energy Project Converts Towers for Nesting Eagles and Ospreys | New

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Two disused Duke Energy transmission towers have been converted into bird nesting platforms at the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area in West Terre Haute.






Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaWhere the eagles fly: Service Electric employee linemen reach a rig brought to them by helicopter above the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area Wednesday in West Land High. The two linemen secured the nesting platform to an old DukeEnergy transmission tower.




On Wednesday, a helicopter crew from Canada and linemen from Tennessee removed the tops of two transmission towers and installed the platforms for future use by ospreys, and potentially eagles, for nesting.

The Ascent helicopter placed two workers on top of each tower to complete the job.

The platforms are 8 feet wide and 6 feet long and are constructed with fiberglass grating and steel supports – strong and large enough to accommodate large nests.

The initiative is part of a larger Duke Energy project to remove disabled lines and five transmission towers in the Wabashiki wetland area. Two of the seven towers will remain in place for nesting platforms.

Among those watching the aerial effort was Adam Grossman, superintendent of the Vigo County Parks Department. “It’s really exciting for us here. It’s been talked about for years, getting the lines out and knocking down the pylons” and improving the wildlife habitat.

One of the towers already removed is at Dewey Point, where four concrete pillars remain. The parks department eventually hopes to build a gazebo and observation deck there, Grossman said. “We will work to identify funding sources…It’s still conceptual at this stage.”

Improvements in recent years, including the pedestrian walkway, have greatly increased the number of visitors to Wabashiki, he said. “It’s a very good bird watching center which I think more and more people will enjoy.”

Rick Burger, district manager for Duke Energy, said last week that removing disabled lines and pylons “is the right thing to do for the environment. It just cleans. Plus, “you don’t want to leave something in there that could become a liability,” he said.

Bill Bedwell, Duke Energy’s senior construction manager, said that by using a helicopter for the entire project, “we can do all of this without making any environmental footprints.”

Ascent Helicopters of Canada specializes in this kind of project, Bedwell said. The linemen who worked atop the towers were from the Tennessee-based Service Electric Company.

The overall cost of the project is between 1.9 and 2 million dollars.

Using the helicopter resulted in up to $1 million in savings, Bedwell said. Otherwise, Duke would have had to cut many trees, lay mats and use specialized machinery; restoration work would also have been necessary.







Perfect perch: Duke Energy project converts towers for nesting eagles and ospreys

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza Repurposed: A Chattanooga Service Electric crew helps guide a piece of a Duke Energy electric transmission tower through the air as it is pulled by a helicopter August 3 overhead from the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area in West Terre Haute.




The overall cost includes the entire transmission tower and line removal effort, said Duke Energy spokeswoman McKenzie Barnknecht. The towers and transmission lines had reached the end of their useful life and were no longer in use.

Once downgraded, it can become a security issue, she said. While this was a project undertaken for security purposes, it also provided an opportunity to partner with the Vigo County Parks Department to reuse two of the towers “in creative and sustainable ways” and provide nesting habitat, she said.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Vigo County Parks Department,” Barnknecht said.

Also at the scene on Wednesday, Vigo County Commissioner Brendan Kearns took photos and video. “It’s amazing to see the progress being made in this area,” he said. “I am very happy that the power lines are down because for photography and nature observation, power lines are always a distraction.”

The nesting platforms will hopefully encourage osprey to build nests there, Kearns said. The eagles, which he photographs frequently, like to build in the trees. “Osprey is more adept at building on a tower.”

Eagles are often seen in the wetland area. “Around this time last year we counted over 100 eagles at Dewey Point,” Kearns said. “It will help us improve the habitat here and make it more attractive to wildlife.”

Dan Bradley, chairman of the Riverscape Trails Committee, said Riverscape “has encouraged Duke to do this for a long time. We are really pleased with the improvement in the landscape and the resulting improvement in the habitat… This is a real victory for Wabashiki.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or [email protected] Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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