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Xcel Energy Avian Protection Memorandum of Understanding
In 2002, Xcel Energy entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for the purpose of dealing with migratory birds that may be present, injured, or killed on Xcel's property. Historically, FWS initiated MOUs when a utility company had violated bird protection laws or fallen out of compliance with wildlife protection plans (APLIC 2006). Xcel's MOU was different in that it was voluntary; the utility and the agency entered into the agreement on a mutual basis. Xcel wanted to be proactive, and take extra precautions to protect wildlife on and around electric infrastructure.
State wildlife and natural resource agencies were also part of the agreement. The agreement covers Xcel Energy's power lines in twelve states: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The MOU requires Xcel to develop an avian protection plan (APP), evaluating threats to migratory birds on Xcel property, and seek to reduce those threats. Xcel Energy reports twice a year to the Fish and Wildlife Service documenting bird nest removals and bird injuries and fatalities. Notes are included for each incident, explaining the circumstances and solutions or next steps. In turn, under the MOU, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not prosecute Xcel Energy for unlawful takings of migratory birds, as long as Xcel Energy remains in compliance with the MOU.
Xcel's Colorado and Wyoming divisions were the first to complete their avian protection plans in 2004, followed by the Upper Midwest Region, and the Southwest. As the company tracked avian issues with energy infrastructure, trouble areas were discovered and Xcel began an effort to retrofit their equipment to prevent further bird injury and mortality.
One effort made by Xcel is to install flight diverters to make powerlines more visible to birds. In 2009, Xcel worked with outside consultants to evaluate transmission lines in Minnesota and Wisconsin with respect to wetland areas, bird migration paths, and known nesting areas. They developed a plan to install 3,400 swan flight diverters on transmission lines in priority habitats in Xcel Energy's upper Midwest region.
In 2006, Xcel retrofitted twelve miles of transmission line in Colorado to protect birds along the Colorado River in Western Colorado. Xcel Energy's Southwestern Region APP includes the retrofit of over 1,100 structures throughout the region over eight years in three phases, beginning in 2010.
In areas where nesting birds have caused problems on Xcel's towers, the company has installed nest boxes away from electric infrastructure, providing bird habitat that won't interfere with energy reliability. To raise awareness of the company's efforts in avian protection, Xcel Energy hosts six web-based "bird cams," documenting activity at six different nest boxes. The web cams—visited by more than 68,000 viewers in 2009--showcase bald eagles, great horned owls, peregrine falcons, kestrels, and osprey.
- Linda Downy, US Fish and Wildlife Service 303-236-8170
- Xcel Energy Bird cam
- Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC)
Organization: Xcel Energy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Location: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming
Project Phase: Construction (avian protection); Operation/Maintenance (memorandum of understanding)
Last Updated: October 4, 2011