Within and just outside Southern California Edison's (SCE's) territory are two California condor release sites in the Hopper Mountain and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuges. California condors are listed as endangered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. Electric utility infrastructure poses an electrocution hazard to California condors and many other protected bird species. As the California condor's range expands and population grows, interactions with SCE facilities are likely to increase.
While the California condor's range is expanding, so are the impacts of climate change and human development in the wildland-urban interface, resulting in more frequent and catastrophic wildfires. A quarter of SCE customers live in high-risk fire areas (HFRAs). In response to this threat, SCE developed a wildfire mitigation plan (WMP) to protect public safety and reduce the risk of potential wildfire-causing ignitions. One potential source of ignition is wildlife contact with electrical infrastructure.
As part of its WMP, SCE has been evaluating circuit segments and areas for the installation of covered conductors, and it has installed several hundred miles already. Bringing structures up to current SCE standards and installing more covered conductors will reduce the potential for wildlife contact and other sources of ignition such as vegetation and weather. However, it will take time for the utility to complete this infrastructure hardening. In the interim, SCE has been performing enhanced overhead inspection (EOI) of structures in HFRAs to identify and mitigate any imminent ignition risks, including those to avian protection.