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Nest Threatens Power Line's Replacement

Posted: February 29, 2008 1:09 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.

A Red-tailed hawk flies over a neighborhood in Saugus. The federally protected bird has made a nest atop a power line scheduled for replacement - and that could pose a problem for Southern California Edison's ability to tear down the structure and erect a new one.

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As the Santa Clarita Valley continues to grow and expand, there is a concern and movement to sustain growth without exhausting natural resources. Finding ways to balance growth with the environment has come to a crossroads. That crossroads can be found in Saugus, where a proposed renewable energy project may threaten the nesting grounds of federally-protected Red-tailed hawks.

The crossroads is specifically near the top of an existing tower atop a hill near the end of Seco Canyon Road, where a hawk has placed a nest just underneath where a segment of electrical line meets the tower.

"All raptors are federally protected," said Diane Manwaring of Saugus. A portion of her property includes the tower with the hawk's nest.

Southern California Edison is building a new renewable energy project in the same area where the current tower stands. As the transmission project moves forward, the tower will have to be taken down - along with the nest. The electrical lines that run through the area will be replaced with new towers as part of Edison's project.

It may be five or six months before the new tower is constructed, which may be too late for the hawks. Manwaring says a hawk tower will solve the problem.

"We'd like Edison to build a hawk tower," she added. "We need to protect our open space."

Yet in the meantime, she hopes Edison will wait until the hawks complete their nesting before moving forward with the project.

"Just let them have their eggs," Manwaring said. "Then Edison can move forward with their plan. There is no reason to get rid of their home."

She added that if the nesting were to begin now, the newborn hawk would not be ready to leave the nest and leave its parents until August.

However, Edison plans to take down the tower in the next few weeks, meaning a new tower may not be erected until August. In the meantime, there will be no place to move the nest, which Manwaring says is a problem.

Edison, though, said it will do what they can to protect the hawks.

"We will not do anything while they are in nesting season," said Edison spokeswoman Anna Frutos-Sanchez. "We're totally environmentally-friendly."

In accordance with a state law, Edison was required to have 20 percent of the electricity it delivers to customers be produced by renewable sources by 2010. The Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project was designed to comply with that state law. The project would interconnect renewable wind energy to its existing electric system, allowing them to produce electricity by renewable power sources such as wind.

The new renewable power lines through Saugus would end at the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area in Kern County, which is a wind farm that will allow Edison to keep up with demands for renewable power.

Yet Manwaring said she has no problem with Edison's renewable energy plan. She just wants to be sure the hawks are protected until they are done nursing.

According to Manwaring, who is a computer analyst and an environmentalist who studies birds as a hobby, the hawks appeared to be nesting, though she is not sure whether any eggs have been placed in the nest.

The nest is visible from her backyard, and the hawks were seen flying into and around the nest by several eyewitnesses. Manwaring states that hawks circling and frequenting the nest is a sign that the hawks are ready to nest, potentially causing a problem for Edison's new tower.

"I'm all for renewable energy," Manwaring added. "The hawks just happen to pick the tower for nesting at this time.

Where else can they go? The hawks do not know any better. It's not like they knew of Edison's plan."


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