Nesting hawks put feather in the works

Staff ReporterMidwest Times
Sam got his name for his ‘don't mess with me’ look, and his decision to fly west.
Camera IconSam got his name for his ‘don't mess with me’ look, and his decision to fly west. Credit: Supplied

Western Power has had its tower-toppling efforts momentarily delayed by a few families of hawks, and the technicians have given them some fittingly sporting titles.

Two of the birds were affectionately dubbed Sam and Jordan (after former Hawthorn Hawks players Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, who also “flew the nest” this season), Sam in particular being named for his “don’t mess with me” look and tendency to fly west.

The nesting birds put a brief (but accounted for) pause on the removal project, with five towers still to fall before works are complete.

Western Power removed 146 retired transmission towers in the Mid West last year following the completion of the $406 million Mid West Energy Project in April 2015.

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Western Power safety and environment manager Claire Royston said all environmental factors were taken into account whenever towers are built or toppled and that the length of this project meant allowances for potential nesting birds were made.

“The parents certainly made it known that they had young in the area by swooping and screeching at crews, so we set in place environmental procedures to minimise disturbance so the chicks would fledge naturally,” she said.

“If we were to interfere by moving the nests, there’s a possibility of inducing stress or other problems that could result in the abandonment or death of the chicks, so we elected to avoid that possibility entirely.”

Ms Royston said wildlife wasn’t the only factor considered when Western Power began scoping the decommissioning of the towers, as the line ran through important farming land in the region.

“We worked pretty intensively with farmers so that when we brought down the towers there would be minimal impact to their land or canola crops.”

A Western Power spokesman said the towers would be removed shortly, keeping the project on budget and on schedule.

He also said with the average height of the new towers being almost 60m, they would be more than adequate to accommodate any other hawks looking for a home in the West.

The MWEP included the construction of 388 new lattice transmission stations, upgrades to a number of substations and more than 2900km of power line.

At an average of 24 tonnes a tower, that equates to around 9300 tonnes of steel, nearly matching the weight of the Eiffel Tower.

As well as the 28-year-old lattice power towers, 420 wooden transmission poles were also retired as part of the project, and enough powerline to stretch from Perth to Lancelin (135km). The dismantling of the towers destroys them, leaving them severely buckled and deformed, also leaving the steel incapable of being re-used.

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