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June 12, 2014

Diamondback rattlesnakes to be added as endangered species

Power companies indirectly affected

Mayo — The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 and indirectly affects the power industry, according to Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Community Relations Manager Baynard Ward.

“It requires federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, fund or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or adversely modify critical habitat of such species,” Ward explained. “It also prohibits any action that causes a taking of any listed species of fish or wildlife on public or private land.”

Ward said since the enactment of this law, it has become one of contention environmentally because its provisions can affect the use of both federal and non-federal land and resources. 

“There is certainly a need for the ESA,” Ward said. “We, as a power company agree.”

Over 1,450 species are designated as endangered or threatened, Ward continued. About 20 percent more species are going to be added to the list in Florida over the next five years.

“One of those is the (Eastern) diamondback rattlesnake,” he said. “Believe it or not.”

Ward said anytime SVEC builds substations or adds power lines they have to get permits, and they also work closely with Suwannee River Water Management District.

“A couple years ago, we modified a substation and we had one gopher tortoise out there,” said Ward. “It cost us like $10,000 to move that one gopher.”

Hamilton Correctional Institution Warden Scott Crews said when the annex was built they had to relocate about 200 gopher tortoises.

“We had to transport them, but they couldn’t be transported but so many hours a day,” said Crews. “We actually stayed at a hotel and it had to remain about 70 degrees that night. They (tortoises) were all in a hotel room.”

The National Rural Electric Co-op Association (NRECA), Ward said, is trying to make the ESA more efficient and balanced. At a recent meeting of the NRECA, a representative from one of the power companies related a story, Ward said. They were setting power poles on a curved road and instead of following the curve they ran the poles across a field.

“There was a mussel or something that was out in that field,” Ward said. “They didn’t know how many were in the field. They just knew some were in there. It was kind of a wet area, so they didn’t let them put trucks in there.”

Because they couldn’t use trucks, Ward said they had to set 10 power poles with a helicopter.

“Just to set those 10 power poles, it cost them an extra $140,000,” said Ward.

Ward said maybe they could have allowed the use of land mats or something, rather than using helicopters that come with a high price tag.

“You’d never think the ESA would affect the cost of power,” Ward said. “Things like that indirectly affect us in a big way.”

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