OPPD’s utility foresters work to maintain a proper clearance between trees and power lines to keep electricity flowing to customers. But they also protect birds.
“Forestry encounters birds, nests and habitat more than any other area within OPPD,” said Chris Vrtiska, supervisor of Transmission and Distribution Maintenance, which oversees Forestry. “It makes sense that our team takes the lead with these efforts.”
The efforts are guided by OPPD’s Avian Protection Plan, enacted in 2016. Its goal is to reduce the risk of bird collisions with electrical equipment, as well as to preserve the habitats of migratory birds.
The plan takes into account laws, such as the Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The latter prohibits the disruption of active nests during peak nesting season from April to September, as well as nests of some raptor species, which occur even earlier.
“It’s crucial for OPPD crews and contractors to conduct tree inspections prior to trimming,” said Vrtiska. “If they find a nest, they note it so they can revisit the tree at the end of August. If the next is vacated by that time, foresters can carry on with their usual work.”
Russ Baker, OPPD’s director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, said precautions must also be taken prior to power line construction or facility work.
“A supervisor or crew leader needs to perform a survey of the area and document their findings to ensure they’re properly following OPPD’s guidelines and procedures,” Baker said.
The Avian Protection Plan also includes methods to prevent birds from colliding into utility equipment.
OPPD studies the birds’ travel patterns and compiles reports of bird injuries and fatalities caused by utility equipment. Then, the utility strategically places “diverters” in these areas, in order to steer birds away from the danger.
Those who encounter a dead or injured bird at an OPPD facility or job site are asked to report it to OPPD Forestry immediately at 531-226-5668. A forester will investigate and file a mortality report with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Our mission is to provide affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services,” Baker said. “And our commitment to environmental stewardship extends beyond just complying with regulations.
“We are committed to enhancing natural resource conservation and stewardship. Our Avian Protection Plan plays a big part in achieving those goals.”
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