Client

An Energy Provider

Key Services

  • Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species Habitat Characterization
  • Targeted Species Survey
  • Raptor Nest Survey
  • Bald Eagle Monitoring

Project Details

CRI conducted rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) species habitat characterizations and targeted species surveys within the 4.5-mile transmission line segment between the power plant on the Nanticoke River in Vienna to the substation in Sharptown, MD. The project study area crossed the Nanticoke River, extended through extensive tidal marsh on the Wicomico County side of the river, and traversed mixed coniferous and deciduous forest and agricultural land north and east to the Sharptown substation. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife and Heritage Service (DNR-WHS) had documented seven (7) RTE plant species within or near the project study area. CRI initially determined habitat requirements and likelihood of potential occurrence within the study area. CRI’s scientists then conducted a late season field survey to determine habitat suitability for these listed species within the existing transmission line right-of-way and to look for six of the seven species whose flower time was late growing season. One species, white fringed orchid (Platanthera blephariglottis), flowers during mid-summer, so a targeted search for the plant could not be done. Suitable habitat was identified for all of the listed plant species. Suitable habitats included tidal fresh marshes, wet meadows, wet ditches, and dry, sandy uplands. Three of the six RTE plants noted by the DNR-WHS as potentially occurring within the project area were identified. A fourth state rare plant was also discovered during the survey. A detailed report was prepared that documented the results of the field assessment of suitable RTE habitat and targeted species survey. The Element Occurrence information was also recorded and submitted to the DNR-WHS to update their RTE database.

In 2016, a bald eagle nest had been constructed on one of the transmission towers within the alignment at the eastern edge of the Nanticoke River. For safety concerns and a desire to avoid a potential take of eggs or young during planned construction, the client obtained a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to remove the nest following the 2016 nesting season. The nest was removed and excluders were installed on the towers and wooden poles in mid-October 2016. CRI was then hired to monitor the pair of eagles to meet the five-year monitoring requirement in the permit and to determine whether they would attempt to re-nest on the tower or any other transmission structure. Should this occur, CRI would notify the client and a team responsible for harassing (hazing) the birds to discourage their occupation of the electrical structures. Monitoring was initiated in mid-October 2016 and notes were taken on the behavior of the resident eagle pair and any other eagles observed in the area. Field notes were transcribed onto digital field forms in the office and submitted to the client electronically. This was continued through January 19, 2017 when the pair were observed building a new nest on a wooden transmission pole just east of the study area. The client and hazing team were immediately notified, and the new nest was removed a few days later. Beginning on January 19, 2017, CRI initiated daily dawn to dusk monitoring the eagle pair to ensure that no new nests were being constructed on any of the transmission line structures. This rigorous monitoring effort extended through February 28, 2017 when the eagle pair had abandoned their attempt to nest in the project area, at which time monitoring effort was dropped to once per month through May 2017. In May, two visits were made to the transmission line to monitor osprey nests that had been constructed either on wooden poles within the alignment or on platforms adjacent to the alignment. Construction activities had begun on the transmission line and CRI helped to confirm the abandonment of two of the three nests from construction disturbance. Memoranda were prepared after each visit in May that documented observed activities in and around the osprey nest areas.

CRI conducted a raptor nest survey of the entire Vienna to Sharptown alignment in early March 2017. The survey was completed within the project right of way, including up to 100 feet adjacent to the right of way. Evidence of nesting raptor species, including eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls, was documented through a visual assessment of active or abandoned nests or observed breeding behaviors. No raptor nests were observed during the survey. A raptor nest survey report was prepared documenting the findings of the field survey.

Monitoring and annual reporting continued through 2020 in compliance with the USFWS permit to determine whether the resident Transmission Line (TL) pair would again attempt to nest on any of the transmission towers. A large osprey nest was discovered on top of one of the H-poles during vegetation monitoring in early October 2018, and early season monitoring was aimed at determining if the eagle pair would attempt to take over the nest before it could be removed. The eagles did not attempt to utilize the osprey nest, and monitoring continued after nest removal through the 2020 nesting season. In the 2018-2019 season, the eagle pair was observed to have built a new nest in a loblolly pine approximately 700 feet north of the transmission line, which they continued to occupy through the end of monitoring period in 2020. A final five-year monitoring report was prepared at the end of the 2020 season and provided to the client for submittal to the USFWS.