The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Local News

December 5, 2012

Pipeline planners to assess impact on bald eagles

COOPERSTOWN — As the would-be developers of the $750 million Constitution Pipeline prepare to seek federal approval of the project, one of the next steps will be to examine the population of bald eagles — considered a threatened species in New York — along the route.

In a new filing sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the planners of the 121-mile pipeline state that they will be conducting an aerial assessment of bald eagles, by way of helicopter flights.

Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for Williams Partners, a Houston-based firm that is the lead developer of the interstate pipeline, said his company hires biologists who are experts in determining whether bald eagles or other threatened species are present along the project’s route. The project planners, he said, will develop plans to “mitigate” any potential impacts on such wildlife, he told The Daily Star.

“If there is going to be tree clearing in a certain area, you want to make sure they don’t have eagle nests or that there are habitats for certain species” along that stretch of the route, he said.

Tom Salo, an organizer of the Franklin Mountain Hawk Watch, an arm of the Delaware-Otsego Audobon Society, said his group is concerned that the project would threaten several species of birds, as the the pipeline would lead to “habitat fragmentation.”

“There is a suite of forest-dwelling birds that evolved to live in interior forests, and egg habitat and the fragmentation of forests exposes them to predators and parasites that that they did not evolve to cope with,” said Salo.

If the project is approved, construction would begin in 2014. The pipe would be laid largely underground. But the developers, who would obtain rights-of-way along the route, would keep vegetation from growing above the route, leaving a number of species of birds potentially vulnerable, according to Salo and Andy Mason, the co-president of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society.

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