TRANSMISSION LINES AND BIRD MORTALITY RATE STUDY - WHITE PAPER DOWNLOAD LINK

Transmission Power Lines are static elements of the power system. Though its danger is considered, and apparent, no group of living creature that is most vulnerable to this danger than the birds.

This entry is about a link of a study commissioned by New York Power Authority of the mortality rate of these birds associated with power lines.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Sixty-three hours of daylight observations of birds crossing five power line spans within the Niagara Power Project relicensing area were conducted during the Spring migration period in late April and early May 2004.  An interaction between a bird and a transmission line was defined as an event where a bird entered an area bound by the structures supporting a transmission line span, the apparent edges of the right of way parallel to the transmission line, and a vertical area bound by the ground and an estimated altitude twice the height of the structures.   Two field biologists observed birds within this area for 3 hours per span over a 10-day period.  The team also searched for evidence of dead birds within each span, and estimated various sources of bias associated with searching for dead birds.

A total of 4,960 “interactions” between birds and power lines were observed.  Forty-two bird species were identified during the study.  A total of seven dead birds or feather spots were found.  No collisions between birds and electric utility conductors or structures were observed.  When all search biases were accounted for, an estimated total of 13 dead birds was calculated.  Two collision rate estimates (CRE), one using the total number of flights observed and one using an estimated number of flights per day (calculated from our data) were developed.  These were 0.27% and 0.72% respectively.  These collision rate estimates indicate that between 0.27% and 0.72% of the flights that enter the study area would result in bird mortality.  Depending upon the method used, the calculated collision rates for the study area are well below or slightly below the mean and median values reported from other studies in the US.  We conclude that based on data acquired during the Spring migration, electric transmission lines in the study area do not appear to be substantial sources of mortality.


1.0     INTRODUCTION

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is engaged in the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project (Project) in the Towns of Lewiston and Niagara and the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, New York.  The present operating license of the plant expires in August 2007.  In preparation for the relicensing of the Project, NYPA is developing information related to the ecological, engineering, recreational, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects of the Project.  The objectives of this issue are to:  1) describe the ownership of and maintenance responsibilities for transmission facilities within the FERC project boundary; and 2) analyze the relationship between electrical transmission facilities and bird collisions and determine whether bird collisions are occurring along transmission facilities within the Project Boundary.

The scope and design of this investigation was prepared by relicensing staff from NYPA; URS Corporation (URS); and E/PRO Engineering and Environmental Consulting, LLC (E/PRO).

1.1         Background

The 1,880-MW (firm capacity) Niagara Power Project is one of the largest non-federal hydroelectric facilities in North America.  The Project was licensed to the Power Authority of the State of New York (alternatively, the New York Power Authority) in 1957.  Construction of the Project began in 1958, and electricity was first produced in 1961.

The Project has several components.  Components of the Project are thoroughly described in other reports prepared for this Project.  In summary, water is withdrawn from the Niagara River near the Town of Lewiston, and pumped to a 1.8 billion gallon forebay on the east side of the Niagara River, downstream of Niagara Falls (Figure 1.1-1).  From the forebay water is pumped either through the 13 turbines of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, or into the 22 billion gallon Lewiston Reservoir.  A large switchyard located south of the forebay is the interface between the electric generation portion of the project and the various transmission lines that carry electricity to the Project’s service area.

1.2         Investigation Area

Approximately 3,707 acres of lands are owned by or fall under the jurisdiction of NYPA in the Towns of Lewiston, and Niagara, City of Niagara Falls, and the Village of Lewiston.  The upland area owned or managed by NYPA in this area (minus the water area of the reservoir and forebay) is approximately 1,571 acres.  128 acres of land within the Project Boundary are owned by the City of Niagara Falls with NYPA holding an easement for operation and maintenance of water transmission conduits for almost all of this acreage.   Another approximately 40 acres of land within the Project Boundary are not owned by NYPA.  These 1,739 acres comprise the “investigation area” for this report (Figure 1.1-1).  Specific areas investigated in this study are shown in Figures 1.1-2 through 1.1-6.

Some of these lands occur within the Project Boundary and are hereafter referred to as “Project lands”.  All of the areas included in this study lie within the Project Boundary.  NYPA manages the majority of these lands, with the remainder managed by the City of Niagara Falls, NYSOPRHP, NYSDOT, NMPC, NYSEG, local governments, and other entities.  The NYPA-owned lands that are managed by NYPA are primarily those associated with the generation and transmission of electricity at the Niagara Power Project.  Lands owned and managed by NYPA (though not associated with project operations) also include lands used for construction purposes, a portion of the gorge, a 30-acre parcel of land that contains a NYPA warehouse, and several areas adjacent to the Robert Moses Parkway.

Estimates of area to be studied were made using GIS.  Transmission lines and switchyards within the FERC Project Boundary are owned or managed by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Niagara Mohawk (NIMO) and the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG).  Approximate ROW miles owned or managed by each within the Project boundary are:

NYPA:       1.2 miles

NIMO:       4.1 miles

NYSEG:     < 0.1 miles

Total ROW:      5.3 miles (not including a - small NYSEG portion)

Given the small length of NYSEG transmission ROW, this study was limited to NYPA and NIMO transmission lines.  NIMO lines were sampled only where they occupy NYPA-owned ROW.


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