Utility company agrees to fix power lines that threaten to electrocute birds

Saturday, April 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A utility company told the federal government Friday that it will fix any power lines that threaten to electrocute migratory birds, especially protected species like raptors.

The Justice Department said its agreement with Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy was the first of its kind. Xcel, which has power lines in Oklahoma, will evaluate over 90,000 miles of power lines in 12 states, then fix any equipment likely to cause kill or severly injure the birds.

Birds with larger wingspans, like raptors, run the highest risk of electrocution, which occurs when their bodies close a circuit between two wires. Such electrocutions frequently result in transmission problems to customers.

Raptors include eagles and hawks.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that collisions with communications towers and other power-related obstacles kill tens of thousands of birds in the United States each year.

The deaths have contributed to the population declines of nearly 300 bird species in the country, with more than 90 of those species deemed threatened or endangered under federal law, the Justice Department said.

The electrocutions can be prevented by widening the space between power lines and making more attractive perches away from dangerous locations, federal officials said.

``This agreement lays out a common-sense solution that will utilize existing technology to protect our nation's birds from a terrible death,'' said Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti.

The Justice Department has been encouraging utility companies like Xcel to sign such agreements to ensure compliance with wildlife protection statutes.

Xcel's agreement covers its power lines in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.