Energizing Your Future

ATC commissions new technology, seed mixes to help pollinators

Bees, butterflies and birds will soon have more flowers, plants and vegetation to visit within American Transmission Co.’s service area.

That’s because ATC is working with its construction contractors to plant seed mixes in its rights-of-way that generate vegetation beneficial to many species of pollinators. Low-growing flowering plants, such as those that attract pollinators, can thrive within transmission line rights-of-way.

ATC has developed enhanced seed mixes to use in its rights-of-way that include plants that flower throughout the growing season. Longer flowering periods allow pollinators to benefit from nectar sources over a longer time span. Pollinators play an important role in contributing to our food security and healthy ecosystems by helping plants flower and reproduce.

ATC is using an innovative approach to identify which rights-of-way to distribute the enhanced seed mixes. ATC worked with an environmental contractor to develop a new geographic information system model to identify right-of-way segments where enhanced seed mixes could help better connect pollinators to their environments. It’s called the Pollinator Opportunities within Rights-of Way, or POWR, model.

“This technology allows us to determine where it makes the most sense to enhance areas for pollinators from a biological standpoint,” said Johanna Sievewright, senior environmental project manager.

So far, ATC has identified 210 priority segments where enhancing areas for pollinators could significantly benefit the local environment.

ATC also is collaborating with nature centers to distribute the enhanced seed mixes. ATC partnered with Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance two and a half acres of right-of-way adjacent to the sanctuary property. ATC also partnered with Mequon Nature Preserve to enhance five acres of right-of-way on its property.

The goal is to help a number of different species, with a focus on endangered species like the rusty patched bumble bee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently added the rusty patched bumble bee, native to the Upper Midwest, to the federal endangered species list.

“It’s important for us to increase habitat to ensure some of these species, like the rusty patched bumble bee, can grow in numbers and hopefully be removed from the endangered species list in the future. We want to do the right thing because we care,” said Sievewright.

ATC’s new POWR model is already generating industry buzz for its innovative approach to environmental stewardship. Sievewright shared how ATC is using its new technology to improve ecosystems at the Electric Power Research Institute Pollinator Workshop in Washington, D.C. in April and the Energy Research Center’s Rights-Of-Way as Habitats Working Group meeting in May.

If you’re interested in attracting pollinators to your own garden, ATC has created the GrowSmart® Pollinator Guide in partnership with horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers.