Sunday, April 30, 2017

Contest winners announced as falcon cam goes live

Congratulations to the winners of our peregrine falcon poster contest. Mike Patneaude’s fourth-grade class at Meadowview Elementary School in Oak Creek, and John Ganey’s sixth-grade class at Trinity Lutheran School in Waukesha developed creative, educational displays that really caught our attention.

Here’s their handy work:

 
Entry from Trinity Lutheran School in Waukesha.
Entry from Meadowview Elementary School 
in Oak Creek.
Both classes win a field trip to a peregrine falcon banding at one of our power plants this spring. They will get to name the chicks, and their schools will be reimbursed up to $250 from the We Energies Foundation for transportation expenses. Winning classes also get a visit from our peregrine falcon manager, Greg Septon, prior to their field trip to learn more about our program.

Thanks to everyone who entered our contest. We received more than a dozen entries. Students incorporated facts about the We Energies peregrine falcon recovery program into their posters, displays and artwork.

Everyone can follow the activity at our power plant nest boxes this spring through our webcams at www.we-energies.com/falcons.

For now, the live feed is focused on our Valley Power Plant in downtown Milwaukee where eggs are expected to hatch any day. The live feed will be rotated to our other sites as hatching occurs elsewhere.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bald eagle and osprey recovery continues in Wisconsin

For decades, We Energies has supported the recovery of bald eagle and osprey populations. These raptor species once thrived in the Midwest, but DDT use and habitat loss led to dramatic population declines between the 1950s and 1970s. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has watched their development over the last four decades. In 2016, the DNR recorded the highest number of nesting sites since monitoring began in 1973.

We Energies employees assist with
an eagle banding in May 2016. 
The DNR’s aerial survey results were released in December. The results show 1,504 occupied bald eagle nests, 39 more than in 2015, and 558 occupied osprey nests, 16 more than in 2015. To put this further in perspective, the 1973 survey recorded only 108 eagle and 92 osprey nests.

“The comeback of our great raptors since their near-demise just over 50 years ago is truly remarkable,” said Mike Grisar, principal environmental consultant at We Energies. “Without the hard work of the resource managers and the aid of utility companies, the recovery of these species would certainly not have been so successful.”

Utilities have a major role to play in raptor conservation due to the species’ nesting habits. Bald eagles and ospreys both tend to build their large nests in the tallest trees available – or, on occasion, the tallest utility poles, which can result in power outages and harm to the birds.

We have worked with the DNR and environmental nonprofits since the early 1980s to help raptor populations recover. Our Bald Eagle Protection Plan prevents disturbances to nesting eagles, preserves canopy trees for future nesting sites and offers public financial incentive to report raptor nests on company lands. When we discover an occupied nest near a project site, we evaluate each situation and develop a strategy to avoid impacting active nests.


Our field crews also erect nesting platforms for raptors, primarily osprey. As these raptor diets rely heavily on fish, the platforms are typically raised near water. They stand taller than any manmade structures in the area, encouraging raptors to choose them in favor of utility poles, and they expand nesting opportunities in wetlands, along lakeshores and in other areas with limited mature tree growth. We collaborate with environmental and wildlife agencies to monitor raptor activity and attach leg bands for conservation research.

Grisar has helped coordinate company efforts for raptor recovery since the mid-2000s, and he has seen their numbers rise almost every year. He is optimistic about their future in Wisconsin and Michigan.

“It is an honor to work for a utility company that has such commitment to environmental stewardship, and it is humbling to know we have made such a difference,” Grisar said.

We are dedicated to keeping our customers and local wildlife safe. With nests weighing up to 200 pounds, eagles and ospreys can damage power lines and cause arcing, power outages and nest fires. If you see a raptor building a nest on a live power line, please contact our 24-hour customer service at 800-242-9317.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Saying thank you on Lineman Appreciation Day

April 18 is National Lineman Appreciation Day, a time to recognize the contributions of the men and women who respond to electric outages and emergencies for our customers.

We caught up with apprentice line mechanics at one of our training centers Tuesday. They were practicing their skills on a warm, sunny day, but frequently, they’re restoring power in less-than-ideal conditions.

“Rain, sleet, snow, the worst of it, lightning, tornadoes. You name it, we’re in it,” said Joel Frappier veteran line mechanic and instructor.

He shared his thoughts about the profession, something he refers to as “a calling.” He is following in his father’s footsteps.

“My dad was a lineman for 38 years at another utility, so for me, it was kind of in my blood.”

Appreciating the work of our line mechanics is appropriate today – and every day.

Falcon eggs present at 5 power plants

Peregrine falcons that nest at our power plants are getting ready to welcome young. Eggs now are present at all five of our power plant nest boxes. Here’s how things are shaping up at each site:

Pleasant Prairie Power Plant
PBR is back for his sixth year and is joined by an unbanded female. Their four eggs are expected to hatch May 6-8.
Unbanded female at Pleasant Prairie
Oak Creek Power Plant
Eclipse is back for her seventh year and is joined by a new male, Michael, who was born in 2015 at the Racine County Courthouse. Their four eggs are expected to hatch May 6-9.

Michael at Oak Creek 

Valley Power Plant – Milwaukee
Hercules is back for a fourth year at this site. He’s the offspring of another Valley Power Plant falcon, Herbert, who was injured and now resides at the Wisconsin Humane Society as an educational ambassador. Hercules’ mate is an unbanded female. Their three eggs are expected to hatch April 30-May 2. 

Unbanded female at Valley
Port Washington Generating Station
Brinn is back for her fourth year and is accompanied by a new mate, Beasley, who was born at the Milwaukee County Power Plant in 2014. Their three eggs are expected to hatch May 12-15.

Brinn at Port Washington
Presque Isle Power Plant – Marquette, Michigan
Maya Angelou is back for her seventh year. Her mate is an unbanded male. So far, one egg is at the site, which was laid over Easter weekend.

One egg at Presque Isle


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Severe Weather Awareness Week

Two tornado drills will occur on April 20 at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The first drill is to help schools and businesses prepare for storm season. The second drill is an opportunity for families to create and review their emergency plans. Governor Scott Walker has declared April 17-21, 2017 as Wisconsin's Tornado & Severe Weather Awareness Week.

We work to maintain a reliable power delivery system, but severe weather and other events sometimes cause power outages that require many hours and even days to resolve.

Be prepared and know what to do should a power outage occur. Assemble an emergency kit and keep it where it’s easy to find in the dark.

Suggested items:
· Flashlights and extra batteries
· Blankets
· Water-half gallon/day per person
· Canned or dried food
· Hand-operated can opener
· First-aid kit
· Prescription medications
· Specialty items for infants, seniors or disabled family members

If you have advance notice of severe storms or other conditions that may lead to extended power outages, consider taking additional precautions:
· Set freezer and refrigerator colder to help food stay safe longer
· Fill vehicle gas tank (gas station pumps do not operate without power)
· Get cash (credit or debit cards may not work if power is out)
· Charge devices, especially cell phones; consider spare power
· Know emergency shelter locations
· Get bottled water, other supplies

Other considerations:
· Battery back-up for sump pump
· Solar power cell phone charger
· Generator to power important appliances
· Surge suppression devices for protection when power returns
· Card or board games to pass time
· Dry ice for refrigerator/freezer
· Frozen jugs of water
· Well-being of friends, neighbors and relatives

Any changes to the mock tornado drill will be posted on the ReadyWisconsin website.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Teachers: Win a falcon-naming field trip for your class!

Attention teachers: Your class could win a field trip to a peregrine falcon banding and name the chicks! We’re looking for classes in grades 3-6 to enter a poster contest.

This spring, peregrine falcon chicks are expected to hatch at four of our power plants (fingers crossed). When the chicks are about three weeks old, they’ll be given wildlife bands. Your class could win a unique opportunity to see this endangered species up close, and our foundation will help fund your trip! 

Winning classes also will get:
  • A classroom visit from our peregrine manager prior to the banding field trip
  • $250 reimbursement from the We Energies Foundation for field trip transportation expenses 
How to enter: Create a poster about peregrine falcons and send us a picture of the finished product. Classes will find plenty of falcon facts at: www.we-energies.com/falcons. Points will be given for creativity, and to those who highlight We Energies falcon recovery efforts! We may share your creations on our social media channels. And the best of the best will win a falcon field trip. 

Students from Carollton Elementary School went to the
falcon banding at our Oak Creek Power Plant last May.
Rules:
  • Email a picture of your students’ poster to: contest@we-energies.com
  • No larger than 10 MB
  • Deadline: April 27 
  • Include:
    • Teacher’s name
    • Teacher’s phone number
    • Teacher’s email address
    • School mailing address
    • Grade level
    • Class size
  • Open to grades 3-6
  • Class size no more than 30 students
  • One entry per classroom
  • Banding dates aren't set until eggs hatch
  • There’s no guarantee eggs will hatch
  • Banding dates are not flexible
  • Bandings typically take one hour 
  • Bandings generally are scheduled between 9-11 a.m.
  • Committee will evaluate entries and choose winners
  • Winning classes will be featured on social media 
  • Winning classes also may appear on local media
    • Teachers are responsible for media waivers
  • Winners will be announced May 1
  • School visits will be scheduled the week of May 15 
  • Banding field trips will be scheduled at the end of May/early June 
  • Schools must be willing to travel to one of these power plants: 
    • Valley Power Plant, Milwaukee
    • Oak Creek Power Plant, Oak Creek
    • Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, Pleasant Prairie
    • Port Washington Generating Station, Port Washington

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Proposal to freeze rates for two more years

Good news! We want to freeze your base rates through the end of 2019. You would pay the same base rate you’ve been paying since 2016. That means four years without an increase!

We’re asking the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to approve our plan, which would benefit our more than 1 million customers.

We also are asking the PSCW to let us extend a pricing program that has helped businesses expand their operations. The program has already helped create more than 2,000 Wisconsin jobs. Now, we want to make that program permanent.

Companies across our service area are in favor of a rate freeze and the expansion of pricing programs that have helped them grow. We’ve also received positive feedback from legislative leaders and organizations such as the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and Waukesha County Business Alliance.

We’re hopeful that the PSCW will approve this settlement – including a base rate freeze – which is in everyone’s best interest.

Employee helps save driver pinned under utility pole

Tom Dudek believes it was fate that brought him to an accident scene in Racine County last weekend. The We Energies employee doesn’t normally work on Sundays, but a special switching job had him headed down Highway 83 shortly after 5 a.m.

As Dudek approached Waterford, he saw flashing lights and hit a roadblock. Police assumed he was there to help.

“They told me a woman was trapped in her car and there were wires down,” said Dudek. 


Police had called We Energies for help. Another employee was on the way but hadn’t arrived yet. Dudek jumped into action when he saw the car pinned underneath a utility pole and wires.

“It was pretty dramatic. I could hear the driver crying. She was half in the car and half out,” said Dudek.

First responders couldn’t rescue the woman without risking electrocution. Dudek worked quickly to ensure the wires were de-energized and made the scene safe.

Fellow employee Bob Koenecke got to the scene about 30 minutes later due to the distance he had to travel. He assisted Dudek with repairs while the driver was taken to the hospital by helicopter.

“The driver would’ve been stuck there longer had I not been driving by when I did,” said Dudek. “It was sheer luck that it happened the way it did.”

The driver, Elizabeth Floyd, escaped the accident with a few bruises and some fractured ribs. She says she’s “lucky to be alive.”

“I want to thank him,” Floyd said about Dudek. “It was very scary and traumatizing.”

Floyd’s first instinct was to try and crawl out of her car, but first responders cautioned her to stay inside because of the potentially energized power line.

If you’re ever in a similar situation, stay inside your vehicle and call 911. Don’t exit your vehicle until rescue workers say it’s safe to leave.

If you MUST leave your vehicle because of fire or other danger, JUMP away from the vehicle so that you do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then, land with your feet together and shuffle away.