In 2015, OPPD worked with scientists to protect the rare northern long-eared bat to ensure a new transmission line would not harm the animals’ habitat.
What do bats have to do with electricity? Believe it or not, the little winged mammals make a difference when it came to how the Midwest Transmission Project was built.
The project spans 180-miles between Nebraska City and Sibley, Mo., improving service and reliability for customers of OPPD and Kansas City Power and Light. Construction began in 2016. The line was energized in 2017.
But before that could happen, OPPD needed certain permits, and looking for bats was part of that process.
“We have to cross the Missouri River for this transmission line,” explained Patrick Finigan, Environmental Administrator for OPPD. “And by doing that … U.S. Fish and Wildlife deemed it necessary for OPPD and Kansas City Power and Light to conduct a bat study for an animal that is about to be listed on the endangered species list.”
The northern long-eared bat is threatened due to the spread of a fungal disease called White-Nose Syndrome. The bat was found just outside OPPD’s Nebraska City Station near Nebraska City during a three-month study commissioned by the utility.
Biologists Jason Damm and Michael Mairose for Ohio-based Environmental Solutions and Innovations found a roost July 25, 2014. That’s significant.
“You accidentally knock down or cut down the tree that they’re in without knowing they’re in there,” Mairose said, “you could potentially kill the entire colony.”
In April 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the Northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. For OPPD, the designation requires slight adjustments to the transmission line’s location. However, due to the utility’s proactive efforts, the impact will be minimal.
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