Burley Lagoon Power Towers to be Replaced; New Osprey Pole Added

Carolyn Wiley

The towers in Burley Lagoon have been in service for over 90 years. Ed Johnson, KP News

Tacoma Power will replace the transmission towers in Henderson Bay and Burley Lagoon in late 2017, if the required permitting is approved. The four steel-lattice towers in the water and on the Purdy Spit will be a replaced with a single, taller pole in the lagoon. The four towers on land on both sides of the lagoon will be replaced with four single-pole transmission towers. Tacoma Power will also create a new nesting site for the ospreys that have used the lagoon towers for decades. The towers were part of the original Cushman Hydroelectric Project dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 and have far exceeded their expected life span. According to James Blessing, the lead engineer on the new Cushman Hydro Project, which also includes the replacement of the towers along State Route 302, the first visible phase of the work will be when the Pierce County Parks and Recreation crews begin clearing the small county-owned property on the west end of the Purdy Spit. A Tacoma Power biologist has identified this site as having the best chance for attracting ospreys. Ospreys will likely return to build a new nest after the towers are replaced, but the chances are greater if the site is tall, near a previous nesting site and on or very near water. A second Tacoma Power crew will be investigating the area to take soil samples and figure out the logistics of getting equipment on site to install a separate pole for an osprey nest. The final design approval is expected early next fall and the pole is expected to be installed in the first quarter of 2018. If the park site proves to be unsuitable, upland sites will be considered. The construction schedule depends on the migratory patterns of the ospreys. According to master birder Diane Yorgason-Quinn, ospreys are loyal to previous nests rather than to mates, so they return to the nesting sites where they fledged. Yorgason-Quinn has been studying the Burley Lagoon ospreys for 28 years. Birds from our area winter in Southern California, Mexico and Central America, she said, following the growing seasons. They usually arrive in the Puget Sound Basin shortly after the vernal equinox and nest around the first of April. Eggs hatch in early June and the birds fledge in late July to begin their southern migration at the autumnal equinox. Bald eagles compete with ospreys when their territories overlap and will periodically take over osprey nests for part or all of a season.