Power lines could affect Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

A proposed route for a new transmission line from Missouri into Nebraska has raised concerns about its possible impact on wildlife at a national refuge in northwest Missouri.

The Midwest Transmission Project is a partnership between Kansas City Power & Light and Omaha Public Power District to build a new electrical transmission line that will run from Sibley, to Nebraska City, Neb – between 140 miles to 170 miles long. One of the project's potential routes would run two miles north of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge through private land enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program.

The majority of the migratory waterfowl that land on the refuge and surrounding areas fly in from the north directly over that proposed area. Last spring, the refuge recorded 1.2 million geese that flew south onto the refuge.

“We're interested in the entire ecosystem of the area including the privately owned land around Squaw Creek that is managed as wetlands seasonally,” said Corey Kudrna, wildlife refuge specialist. “The birds don't just fly straight down to the refuge. They utilize the entire area.”

The project route is expected to be completed this summer and will consist of two primary pole types. The type slated for Missouri spans more than 1,000 feet with a height ranging from 60 to 100 feet. A smaller pole will be constructed in Nebraska, and spans 700 to 1,000 feet with a height of 90 to 150 feet.

“Before we put any lines on paper when we first started with our study area, we mapped out all the conservation areas. We wanted to avoid all those sensitive areas to make sure we were not impacting any wildlife,” said Joab Ortiz, an MTP community relations employee.

Officials at Squaw Creek say swans at the refuge have been negatively affected by existing power lines. This winter, three trumpeter swans were killed by power lines on the boundaries of the refuge.

“That is just one species,” said refuge manager Ron Bell. “Who knows how many other birds are actually hitting these lines?”