Major Eagle County power outage Saturday, Sept. 1, traced to errant-flying magpie
EAGLE — Not to sound Hitchcockian, but birds are causing a bit of havoc around Eagle County.
Most recently, a magpie met its demise Saturday, Sept. 1, when it collided with Holy Cross Energy’s Cooley Mesa substation. The bird not only took out itself, it knocked out electric power to a wide area, reaching from Wolcott west to the Hanging Lake Tunnel. What’s more, because of the Lake Christine fire, Holy Cross Energy has been feeding the El Jebel area from the Cooley Mesa facility, so that community was also affected.
According to Jenna Weatherred, Holy Cross Energy vice president for member services, the outage lasted from 9:09 to 10:09 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1. When the magpie collided with the equipment, two breakers were thrown, which resulted in the outage. Holy Cross then dispatched crews to the area.
“It’s a little like playing detective. We have great equipment, but we still had to send out people to find out what happened,” Weatherred said.
When they arrived, the Holy Cross crew found the dead bird and set to work restoring power.
That was the most widespread, but not the only, bird-related incident over the weekend. On Saturday, another bird issue caused a blown fuse in the Avon area that crews had to repair, but that situation did not result in an outage.
Additionally, residents of the Lake Creek area have been experiencing power issues all summer that can be traced back to some avian neighbors.
Weatherred said a number of local osprey nests around the Lake Creek area have been an issue this year. She noted that osprey traditionally choose to build nests at the highest accessible location. In many areas, power poles meet that criteria.
These nests become trouble when sticks from the nests fall and cause problems for the power lines. Also, the birds’ living conditions really aren’t that desirable for beast or human.
“We don’t want to hurt the osprey, but we don’t want them on the poles, where they can also get hurt,” Weatherred said.
Holy Cross takes note of nests after birds have departed for the season so crews can remove them and then place equipment that prevents birds from nesting in the same area. But the deterrents at an existing bird’s nest don’t prevent osprey from simply building a new nest a few poles away. Weatherred said in the past, Holy Cross has worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to built alternative nesting platforms, but in the end, the osprey can’t be forced to choose those safer alternatives.
Ultimately, Weatherred said bird issues are an ongoing challenge for Holy Cross.
“What are you going to do? Birds are going to fly,” she said.
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The tragic incident left a nearby camper wondering if more could be done to remove dead-standing trees from popular camping areas.