October 16, 2018
Sharon Roth Fulton cares a great deal about animals. She has three dogs – two of which are used as therapy animals – and her backyard has been certified as a wildlife habitat by both the National Wildlife Federation and Audubon Pennsylvania. So, when it came to protecting ospreys, Sharon was happy to lend a hand.
“Helping to provide a safe environment for animals is personal for me,” says Sharon, advisor, PA Government Affairs. “I’m proud of the work FirstEnergy has been doing to protect ospreys from energized electrical equipment. Not only is it important for the birds and their young, it also helps to prevent outages for our customers.”
The osprey is a fish-eating bird of prey that seeks out tall structures – including electric transmission towers and poles – to build nests, which can measure up to three feet in length. Although no longer registered on the endangered and threatened species lists in Pennsylvania, FirstEnergy must receive a permit from the state game commission before disturbing a nest, even if it is inactive.
Sharon has been working with Pennsylvania State Representative Parke Wentling (R-Crawford/Erie/ Lawrence/Mercer) on a program to protect ospreys and other nesting raptors while also taking steps to help ensure the reliability of our electric system. Rep. Wentling, a member of the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee (JLCC), is focused on forming partnerships with FirstEnergy and other companies to help find a safer place for ospreys to nest.
With the help of a $3,000 grant from the FirstEnergy Foundation, several osprey nesting boxes have been constructed on utility poles. Osprey nests that have been built on our electrical equipment are moved to the new poles, which are close to our equipment, but not close enough that the birds could contact energized lines. Specialized guards then are installed at the former nest location to divert and discourage ospreys from returning.
“Thanks to the partnership FirstEnergy has with the JLCC, the nesting boxes – which were constructed by a third-party vendor – were built to our requested specifications,” says Amy Ruszala, advanced scientist, Energy Delivery Permitting. “In addition, we’ve been training line workers on what to do when they encounter nests from ospreys or other birds on electrical equipment.”
Because of the cooperation legislators have had with FirstEnergy, they are attempting to form partnerships with other Pennsylvania utility companies to expand the osprey protection program.
“FirstEnergy has been a real leader with state legislators on this issue,” adds Sharon. “Our goal is to identify and move as many nests as possible before birds are injured or sticks and brush from the nests cause a service interruption for customers.”