Federal agency wants lines marked to avoid collisions

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The massive power line that will stretch from Hays to the Nebraska border will be marked with bird flight diverters in an effort to prevent bird collisions -- especially those of the highly endangered whooping crane.

Exactly what form of diverter will be used is uncertain, said ITC Great Plains President Carl Huslig. That will be decided as the line is designed.

The second phase of the 345,000 volt power line, the subject of a technical hearing before the Kansas Corporation Commission on Wednesday, will stretch from Hays to the Nebraska border, passing a few miles west of Smith Center.

Generally, the line will head to the northeast of Stockton, and then head north.

Its path will take it right through the migratory corridor of the endangered whooping crane.

Transmission lines are considered the No. 1 killer of whooping cranes, and that's why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked ITC to install the diverters.

The diverters come in different forms, either through balls or streamers. They are essentially designed to attract the attention of flying birds, which then avoid the lines.

Huslig said the request for the diverters came during a routine meeting with FWS.

"We are committed to doing that," he said of installing the diverters. "That was something that was a major concern. There will be markers on the line."

Huslig said FWS favored the route that ultimately was selected, because it skirts the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge.

While Kirwin is not a major stopping off point for whooping cranes, it is a frequent stop. The greatest number of whooping cranes are spotted at either Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area near Hoisington or at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge near St. John.

Because the technical hearing on the second phase of the line was completed Wednesday, about all that is left is to respond to several issues that have been raised and await a decision from the KCC allowing construction. That decision must be made by June 30.

The second leg of the line will be about 85 miles long. The first leg will stretch from Spearville to Hays.

The first leg of the line will cut between two lesser prairie chicken leks.

ITC has agreed to clear trees from 1,280 acres of pasture in exchange for the damage caused to the leks.