Pursuant to Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 1080 of the Illinois Administrative Code, notice is hereby given that Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), 6 Executive Drive, Collinsville, IL 62234, has submitted a Conservation Plan to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to apply for authorization for the taking of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), incidental to rebuilding the existing Line TP1301 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission line (TL) that is owned and operated by AIC between Grand Tower and West Frankfort in southern Illinois. The portion of the TP1301 TL extending from the Fountain Bluff area across Oakwood Bottoms Greentree Reservoir and the Big Muddy River to a substation northwest of Carbondale is 17 miles in length.
An incidental take authorization (ITA) was recommended by the IDNR due to the presence of records of timber rattlesnake occurrence in the vicinity of the project west of Illinois Route 127; however, no known hibernacula occur within 5 miles of the project area. Therefore, the project area for this Conservation Plan is approximately 11.7 miles of Line TP1301 right-of-way (ROW) between the West Substation on Powerplant Road and Route 127 in Jackson County, Township 10 S, Range 3 W, Sections 4, 5, 6, and 7; Township 10 S, Range 4 W, Sections 12, 13, and 14; Township 9 S, Range 2 W, Sections 16, 17, 19, and 20, and Township 9 S, Range 3 W, Sections 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, and 35 (see attached map).
The project includes removal and replacement of approximately 70 existing 138-kV wooden HAframe structures with steel monopole structures due to age and condition of existing structures. The steel monopole support structures would eventually support a double circuit 345-kV/138-kV line as projected energy demands increase. For the portion of the new double circuit line that is east of Fountain Bluff, the project would include acquiring an additional 25 feet of ROW to the north of the existing line on Shawnee National Forest (SNF)-owned lands only. For these 4.75 miles of TL, the special use permit authorizing use of forest lands for this and other transmission lines crossing SNF will be amended. Construction activities include vehicle and equipment access, vegetation and tree clearing, removal of topsoil, and below-groundwork, such as foundation drilling, boring, and minor grading.
Incidental take of the timber rattlesnake may result during the project as a result of this work. The timber rattlesnake is protected under the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act (520 ILCS 10) and is confirmed to be present within habitat in the vicinity of the project area. Proposed activities have the potential to result in the taking of a maximum of two timber rattlesnakes, which is not anticipated to reduce the overall fecundity and survivorship of the species in the wild in Illinois. A maximum of 47.2 acres of existing TL ROW within and adjacent to suitable timber rattlesnake habitat will be temporarily impacted but will be restored to pre-construction conditions once construction is complete. A maximum of 9.0 acres of suitable timber rattlesnake habitat will be permanently impacted by forest clearing for new ROW and trimming along access routes.
AIC will employ several conservation measures avoid, minimize, and mitigate for the take of timber rattlesnake in the project area. Tree clearing will occur only between November 16 and March 15, when timber rattlesnakes are assumed to be inactive. During construction activities that occur outside of the snake’s denning period (November 16 through March 15), AIC will coordinate with the IDNR Species Recovery Specialist to assess timber rattlesnake habitat and potential den sites that should be avoided, and exclusionary fencing will be installed along the perimeter of construction areas in areas of suitable habitat. AIC will also develop a timber rattlesnake monitoring protocol within the project ROW and access routes. If a timber rattlesnake is found within the active construction workspaces, construction work will stop within a 100-foot distance from the snake until a qualified IDNR biologist can be deployed to safely remove it from the area. Disturbed areas would be reseeded to preconstruction condition approved by the U.S. Forest Service or appropriate private landowner. Funds will be contributed to the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund as compensatory mitigation to support conservation, research, and/or habitat improvements for the timber rattlesnake in Illinois.
A copy of the Conservation Plan for this ITA request is available for inspection at the Sallie Logan Public Library, 1808 Walnut Street, Murphysboro, Illinois 62966. The Conservation Plan will also be available for review on the Department’s website at the following address:
Comments from the public may be directed to the ITA Coordinator, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Heritage, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271, or emailed to DNR.ITAcoordinator@illinois.gov. Comments made by the public must be received by the IDNR on or before July 10, 2023.