By Kenneth L. Kieser
February 1, 2013
“This big electric grid that goes through our wetland would change the waterfowl flight patterns. This would change a flight pattern that has existed since time began,” said Robert E. Lee, Mound City, Mo.
Federal wildlife areas are sacred ground to hunters and conservationists. So it was little surprise when a large group of landowners and hunters attended the Kansas City Power and Light’s (KCPL) Midwest Transmission Project Meeting in Fairfax, Mo. The project could place huge power lines through the middle of the Mound City area and close to Squaw Creek Federal Wildlife Management area, a major waterfowl stopover in the Mississippi Flyway.
The proposed 345-kilo Volt transmission line from the Sibley Power Station would include 1,000-foot long spans, 550 to 100-foot high poles, easement widths from 100 to 160 feet and the months of construction and visits for maintenance. This has wildlife management personnel and landowners worried for a number of reasons.
Squaw Creek is an important waterfowl stopover in the Mississippi flyway. For example, Ron Bell, manager at Squaw Creek Refuge issued a paper that claimed in 2012 counts showed 201,439 ducks, 1,253,380 geese, 141 bald eagles and 314 trumpeter swans visited Squaw Creek in the spring and almost the same numbers in the fall. Landowners in the area are simply worried about losing hunting opportunities. Many depend on annual proceeds from renting blinds to pay their mortgage.
The Kansas City Power and Light Company maintains that this proposed line route will be decided in February, 2013. Many landowners are shocked by the quickness of this decision. A first meeting was held with little publicity and a light attendance. But KCPL is listening to landowners and other opinions before deciding where to place the lines.
“We are bringing to the public a map with potential routes segments,” said Janet Waddell, community relations for the KCPL. “The importance of these meetings is gaining feedback from land owners and federal, or state leaders from Missouri groups. We still do not know what the final route will be (as of Jan. 28, 2013) but that is the purpose of these public meetings. We want to hear people’s concerns.”
KCPL maintains that these huge transmission lines will never go through federal areas like Squaw Creek, but it may go past it, as close as two miles. This is too close, according to Ron Bell.
“I think what they have done is put a bunch of power lines suggestions across the map,” Bell said. “The bad news is, the lines run within two miles of the Squaw Creek Refuge where we concentrate a large number of birds. There are a large number of hunting clubs around the refuge this will affect many are adjacent to our boundary. Waterfowl will be deflected away from these clubs, hurting the local economy.”
Bell fears that this interference will hurt the community’s financial resources and fewer birds will come back to the refuge.
“Even worse,” he said. “We have already had three trumpeter swans this winter killed by hitting power lines. We had 314 trumpeter swans visit this fall and none ten years ago. We are very protective of these birds.”
The KCPL still maintains they want to listen to landowners and Conservation leaders, but there are many issues.
“We try to be sensitive to the environment and replace everything back like it was when we are done,” said Joab Ortiz, community relations manager for the KCPL Midwest region. “We worked with all the state and federal wildlife agencies showing the study areas and potential routes. We got feedback and made some adjustments. We have hundreds of routes and are trying to understand what is best for the communities.”
Most in the wildlife groups and Mound City Community feel the power lines are probably needed, but should be built away from the hunting and refuge center.
For example: “These power lines should not be placed in the huge funnel where birds are going from one spot to the other,” said Ron Bell, Squaw Creek manager.
“I own 80 acres of duck hunting property with two blinds and a home,” said Mike Wolfe, veteran Mound City hunter. “These power lines would completely close us down and it seems to be aimed straight through our property. I have three generations of family that comes here every fall from Colorado, New York, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota and there would be no reason for them to come to Mound City ever again. Move the power line north above Craig, Missouri where there are no concentrations of wet lands or refuge property.”
“My property by Mound City and Squaw Creek has been operated as a wetland for hunting, bird watching and wildlife activities since 1975,” said Gary Parker, vice president of the Mound City Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame. “We pay to flood it every year while providing habitat—a costly venture that requires a lot of work. The zone between Squaw Creek Refuge and Craig, Missouri then to the Missouri River is an extension of the refuge that provides habitat and food the refuge can’t provide. We occasionally see over a million geese there when none are on the refuge. The power line would ruin my property and this zone, hurting migration patterns.”
“Squaw Creek is part of a larger wetland complex managed by private duck clubs,” said Corey Kudrna, Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge Specialist. “These proprieties are managed seasonally by being dried out during the summer to plant crops or other plants. This attracts waterfowl including swans. Power lines that would run along the waterfowl hunting clubs would discourage migrations and encourage bird strikes on power lines. I hope the KCPL will listen and choose a different route that will not impact our wildlife.”
“I own 2,000 acres in the Squaw Creek region,” said Robert E. Lee, of Mound City, Mo. “The B-26 Grid divides my farm and comes within 200 yards of my home. I have several irrigation pivots through there, 30 blinds and a duck lake. I rent the blinds annually for between $8,000 to $10,000 and this helps pay my mortgage. This big electric grid that goes through our wetland would change the waterfowl flight patterns. This would change a flight pattern that has existed since time began.”
The decision on where to run the power grids will be decided in February. You may express your opinion on detouring this line away from the Mound City/Squaw Creek region by writing: Midwest Transmission Project, c/o Joab Ortiz, Burns and McDonald, 9400 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO 64114 or call: (855)-222-1291 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org