06 December 2014

Whooping Cranes Occur Along R-Project Corridor

The following is the text of an email received, and is presented here to convey the timely information.

"The Whooping Crane Pictures were taken North of Sutherland, just south of the North Platte River and just west of Prairie Trace Road around noon on November 15th of 2014 by Rick Jackson on Kennedy Farms. The Proposed R-Project 345KV Transmission line would be running just across the road on the east side.

"There is a juvenile Whooper in the middle of the pictures of the two adults. Two groups of three (one group of 3 adults and one group of 2 adults and 1 juvenile) were observed by Larry Kennedy from November 15th through the 17th. The Crane Trust was contacted and is currently doing the official documentation.

"It is more proof of this being a highly used area by Whooping Cranes. In the last round trip of the Whoopers migratory route in 2014 from Canada to Texas the Whoopers would have been in danger of colliding with the Proposed R-Project twice. This being when they picked the North Platte River (November 2014) and the Birdwood Creek (April 2014) as a place to stop over to rest and feed and in very close proximity to the proposed line location. The two confirmed sightings are approximately 7 miles apart and both adjacent to the Proposed line.

"There were other two alternate routes proposed to Nebraska Public Power District ("east of North Platte alternative" and "west of GGS alternative") that were reviewed by NGPC and the USFWS to have less of an impact on Migratory Birds were proven this year that they would have had less on an impact on Whooping Cranes!

"The main reason again for not following through with these alternatives to avoid these highly sensitive areas were it would cost more money (93 percent funded by the Southwest Power Pool) and reliability (line separation). One can't put a price on a species such as the Whoopers when the difference between existence and none existence may be due to poor routing decisions made such as this one.

"The endangered Whooping Cranes should be added to the Environmental Impact Statement currently being conducted by the USFWS for the known take of the endangered American Burying Beetle in the construction of the Proposed line. The reason the Whoopers can't be added as the headliner on the E.I.S is that one will not know the damage the constructed line will cause in these areas until after the fact and the damage is already done. Even then there are only around 30 Whoopers or 10 percent of the last remaining wild migratory flock of 300 with transmitters to track them. So, about 90 percent of the time when a Whooper hits a power line its death will go down as unknown. As most of the collisions they will fly off injured, get hauled off by a coyote or float down stream. At this point the NPPD and the SPP still have the option to avoid these highly sensitive areas with huge numbers of migratory birds and Whoopers, but will likely make the decision based on lowest one time cost for the project not the perpetual environmental affects.

James R. Fleecs

Picture taken by Rick Jackson.