The New Guidelines for Drafting Avian Protection Plans

An avian protection plan, also known as an APP, is a voluntary, utility specific plan for reducing risks to birds and system reliability that result from avian interactions with power lines and electric utility facilities. In 2012, the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee updated these guidelines, which were originally drafted in 2005.

If you have not seen the updated guidelines (PDF – 6.6 MB), it’s worth a look. It’s a clear, easy-to-read document covering the who, what, where, why and how of reducing avian collisions with power lines.

The Why – Federal Compliance and Public Safety

There are three primary laws in the US that protect birds from injury and death. They are:

  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that currently protects 1,007 species of birds
  • Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940
  • Endangered Species Act of 1973

In addition to these federal laws protecting birds, collisions and interactions with power lines and distribution facilities can cause power outages.

The What and Where – Understanding Bird Collisions

Species of birds that are susceptible to collisions with power lines generally have large, heavy bodies with long wings and poor maneuverability. Such birds include ducks, geese, loons and cranes. Eagles, due to their long wing span, can also suffer mortalities. Other influencing factors include flight behavior like flocking, courtship and migration. These factors affect gulls, terns and similar birds.

The How – Minimizing Collision Risks

When planning new power lines, three environmental study options are often used to identify the optimal route: spatial analysis using GIS, field assessment and avian risk assessment. Engineering, economics and social issues also contribute to the final decision. Early engineering solutions can include choices of line type, configuration and tower structure. Final designs include decisions about what type of line-marking design will be used and where.

Who and When – Developing Avian Protection Plans

Avian protection plans provide the guidance needed to meet the goals of implementing a program that reduces bird mortalities. This includes documenting utility actions, improvements to service reliability and compliance with bird protection laws. Each utility has the flexibility to create their own plan that covers these topics:

  • Corporate policy and training
  • Permit compliance and construction design standards
  • Nest management and avian enhancement options
  • Avian reporting systems and risk assessment methodologies
  • Mortality reduction measures and quality control
  • Raising public awareness

How We Can Help

GeoEngineers’ ecological services include a group of talented wildlife biologists who can help with all elements of an avian protection plan, from the nuts-and-bolts of preparing the document to field work with bird identification and risk assessment. In addition to these services, we also offer a data-management and reporting tool for bird mortalities and strike incidents called AvianAudit.

If you have a need for any of these services or want to know more, contact us.

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