Power official urges caution with fish entrails
A juvenile bald eagle partially responsible for one of two electrical outages in the last two weeks lays in the back of a truck after being recovered. Wrangell Light & Power officials urge fishermen to be careful with discarded fish entrails since large birds in pursuit of a free meal can lose track of their surroundings and become entangled in local power lines.
Fish guts and good intentions have caused at least one of two short bird-related power outages in the last two weeks, officials with Wrangell Light & Power said.
Fishermen with an eye toward offering feathered friends a meal often leave the undesirable part of the fish out for the birds, said superintendent Clay Hammer. The birds, excited at the possibility of a free meal, lose track of their surroundings and inadvertently bridge the gap between two electric lines. The birds are killed instantly, and electrical, Internet, or phone service can be disrupted for paying customers, Hammer said.
"A lot of times when people clean their fish, they like to leave their fish ... entrails ... where the eagles can get them," he said. "It's fun to watch the birds come in and munch on everything. It brings the eagles and the ravens and the crows. Unfortunately, if they do that anywhere within close proximity of the power lines, it just draws birds like moths to a flame, and we've already had ... two outages in the last week or so that are directly attributable to bird strikes."
Not all outages are attributable to bird strikes, Hammer said. An outage last month was blamed on a breaker fault in Ketchikan. However, when bird strikes happen – in Wrangell or other communities – they can have ramifications for all communities connected via the Swan-Tyee Intertie. This was the case earlier this month when an electrocuted raven in Petersburg caused a short outage in Wrangell and Ketchikan, according to Hammer.
"It always seems that this time of year, when the fishing gets good, somebody always ends up with a little bit of extra fish parts, and it is kind of fun to leave 'em out there where the birds can feed," he said. "But a lot of times, they kind of lose track of where the power lines are."
The problem occurs when large birds – ravens and eagles in particular – provide a shorter path for electricity to jump from one line to another, with unpredictable results, Hammer said.
"One single phase will go down, so a person in one house will have their power go out and they'll look across and they'll see that their neighbor's lights are still on, and it's because we've lost a single phase instead of the whole entire system," he said.
The loss of power can sometimes also cause Internet outages, particularly when the GCI Distribution building on Peninsula Street is affected, Hammer said.
"They're a three-phase system, and so the loss of even a single phase has the potential to disrupt the Internet," he said.
Hammer urged fishermen wishing to leave fish remainders for the birds to do so out of sight of power lines.