Fish and Bird Protection Programs

City Light understands how critical it is to protect fish and wildlife habitats for both our ecosystem and the long-term effects of climate change. That is why we have developed special programs to focus on the protection of fish and birds in the areas we operate and serve.

Protecting Threatened Fish Species

A snorkeler examines a fish underwaterWe continually work to protect over 13,000 acres of land, including 3,500 acres of City Light owned spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout in the Skagit and Tolt River drainages. In addition, we have constructed and contributed to significant habitat restoration projects in the Skagit and Tolt River basins to protect threatened fish species.

We regularly conduct and sponsor research on fish species and contribute science and policy expertise to regional efforts to protect salmon and restore the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Protecting Birds and Avian Habitats

Many bird species use City Light transmission and distribution line corridors in our service territory and at our hydroelectric projects.  We work to protect birds and their habitats from the impacts of operation and maintenance of our facilities and power lines. When pruning trees around power lines and maintaining vegetation around transmission lines, we take extra care to preserve as much nesting habitat as possible and avoid disturbing nesting birds. 

Learn more about our vegetation management practices.

When birds collide with, peck, perch, or nest on electrical equipment, it can result in bird mortalities. This is also a leading cause of power service disruption for City Light, reducing system reliability and increasing the cost of providing power to customers. Our Avian Protection Program helps to protect bird habitats while also minimizing bird injuries and deaths caused by power lines and other electrical equipment.

Key functions of the Avian Protection Program are:

  • Tracking and monitoring bird-related power outages and resulting bird deaths
  • Assessing and managing nests on utility poles and towers
  • Reducing electrocution and collision risks for birds
  • Training field employees on protocols for protecting habitats during vegetation management and construction, materials standards for avian protection retrofits of pole-tops, identification of bird species, and handling and reporting dead and injured birds and problem nests
  • Identifying and prioritizing future electrical structure retrofitting activities
  • Coordinating with US Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on avian issues and compliance
  • Measuring the effectiveness of program activities to ensure they meet goals

To learn more, read our Avian Protection Plan.

Applying industry standards for avian protection when building new distribution systems and retrofitting existing equipment is a proven way to minimize bird related outages. We actively retrofit poles and equipment, insulate electrocution hazards, and install perch deterrents to protect birds from electrocution. As a result, the number of known avian deaths, the vast majority being crows, has declined from a high of 602 in 1988 to less than 280 annually since 2007. 

An osprey about to land in a nestNests on power poles are dangerous because debris falling onto conductors can cause fires and power outages, as well as increase the electrocution risk for the nesting birds. Western Washington has numerous large trees, so power poles are less attractive as nest sites than they are in more open areas. Nonetheless, ospreys, crows, pigeons, starlings, woodpeckers, and swallows have all been observed nesting on or in City Light power poles and/or other electrical equipment.

When an osprey nest needs to be removed, we typically coordinate with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to install perch and next deterrents to prevent nesting on power poles, and install a pole with a nesting platform nearby to provide an alternative nesting site.

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Bird collisions with power lines are rare and can be hard to detect. Within our service territory, many power lines over water are clustered with other wires and near other structures, making them more visible, even in low-light conditions. Nonetheless, waterfowl and wading birds occasionally collide with City Light power lines. 

In locations where collisions do occur, City Light installs bird flight diverters, where appropriate, to increase the visibility of the powerlines. We also mark wires where City Light transmission lines cross the Skagit River and adjacent areas used by wintering bald eagles to reduce risk.