LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Environmental experts in Nebraska say transmission lines to power pumping stations for the planned Keystone XL pipeline would threaten endangered whooping cranes.
Representatives from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Bold Nebraska, submitted written testimony on Monday to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, saying they object to the $8 billion pipeline's impact on natural resources.
The commission regulates the 275-mile pipeline route through Nebraska.
"We need to reduce the threats to this magnificent bird, not increase them," said bird expert Paul Johnsgard, a retired biology professor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Johnsgard said the preferred route of the pipeline would mean nearly 70 miles (110 kilometers) of new power lines in the state would pass through migration areas where whooping cranes roost and feed. He said that increases the risk of bird deaths from collisions.
"Of all the known threats to whooping cranes, collisions with power lines are the primary cause of mortality," he said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently estimated that there are fewer than 350 whooping cranes left.
"The loss of even a few, and even one, breeding adult could jeopardize the continued existence of this protected species," Johnsgard said.
Pipeline developer TransCanada said it'll review comments but that the route doesn't cross critical habitat for whooping cranes. It said it plans to create a conservation plan following the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which aims to protect migrating birds.
Environmental scientist Thomas Hayes recommended the route be rejected or at least shifted east, where there are fewer stream crossings and fewer miles of porous soils.
TransCanada has until July 17 to offer written rebuttals to submitted testimony. The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the pipeline in August.