Progress Energy’s actions in many areas, from its environmental policy to the balanced resource plans its utilities employ, have the potential to affect natural resources. Some programs that demonstrate how the company protects natural resources are noted below:
We manage 83,680 acres in the Carolinas and Florida as forest land under a sustainable, multiple-resource management concept. These lands are located around power plants, substations, lakes, rivers and undeveloped properties. The Forest Management Plan provides strategies for timber production, wildlife habitat enhancement, watershed protection, recreational opportunities and many other benefits.
Actively managed forests provide sustainable income, habitat for wildlife, clean water and recreational opportunities while sustaining forest health. The primary goal is to balance all of these elements while continuing to add value to the land.
Timber management involves harvesting, reforestation, thinning, site preparation, prescribed fire and herbicide application, among other things. After a timber harvest, each site is carefully evaluated to determine the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner in which to prepare and reforest the site. The site conditions, native species, location, soils and local climate are used to help determine the most appropriate tree species for replanting the site. We follow North Carolina's mandatory Forest Practice Guidelines and each state's voluntary best management practices during any forestry-related activity. We began planting our trees at wider spacing and thinning them to lower stocking levels in recent years to promote diversity and wildlife forage and habitat. Recent advancements in selective herbicides and forest fertilization techniques allow us to help encourage this additional plant diversity while maintaining and even improving tree volume growth and overall timber production.
Special consideration is given to protect threatened and endangered species during forestry operations, and preference is given to selecting native tree species during reforestation planning. Since 2000, more than 700 acres at one site near the Harris Nuclear Plant and approximately 40 acres at the Suwannee Plant have been restored to native longleaf pine forest. The Robinson Plant lands with natural and planted longleaf pine forests are enrolled in the Safe Harbor Program for management conditions suitable to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Prescribed fire is an integral part of managing these sites.
Progress Energy incorporates wildlife food plots and partners with local and national organizations and agencies for habitat enhancement. Wildlife partners include Quail Unlimited, the Quality Deer Management Association and the National Wild Turkey Federation. These partnerships have helped include wildlife recommendations within the forest-management plans for all managed lands.
About 40,000 acres of Progress Energy land have been designated for public use through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's Gamelands and S.C. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area programs.
We have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the N.C. Natural Heritage Program to protect the rare plant species and unique biological communities along our transmission and distribution rights of way by minimizing disturbances during corridor maintenance. Since its inception in 1993, the management program has grown to 22 species in 14 counties in the Piedmont and Coastal plains of our North Carolina service area. In addition, there are approximately 50 species of plants that are collaterally or incidentally being protected at these sites. These plants are identified by the state as “special concern,” “rare,” “proposed for classification” or “candidate” for status. The company also is working with the S.C. Heritage Trust Program to identify similar unique areas in South Carolina.
In Florida, the company has cooperated with state and local agencies and environmental non-governmental organizations to protect endangered plant communities by modifying right-of-way vegetation-management practices, including the use of selective cutting, hand removal and delineating no-mow areas. This has been especially prevalent in the Lake Wales Ridge, where numerous endemic plants and animals are found. For example, we have taken steps to protect the plants and habitats of the endangered scrub mint, Dicerandra, found along certain rights of way.
Our service territory is located in one of the nation’s most important migratory flyways and provides seasonal nesting sites for dozens of species of birds. Our states’ rivers, lakes and coastlines also provide natural habitat for eagles, ospreys and other raptors. We have implemented procedures for avian protection to reduce the risks that result from avian interactions with utility power lines and substations. These procedures are designed to minimize the risks of bird collisions and electrocutions and guide us on nest removal and relocation. They include specifications for equipment that alerts and deters birds from utility infrastructure, as well as artificial nesting platforms that protect birds from the risk of electrocution.
We work to ensure that ospreys are not harmed when making their nests on our equipment. To this end, we helped relocate an at-risk osprey nest to a new platform in Dunedin, Fla., and then worked with the local Audubon Society to install a webcam. This camera allows students, teachers and others to get a bird’s-eye view of an active osprey nest. We also sponsor the Dunedin Osprey Cam.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker Protection
Progress Energy Carolinas registered the Robinson Plant lands in South Carolina under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Safe Harbor Program for red-cockaded woodpeckers. The program allows the company to establish a baseline red-cockaded woodpecker population (in this case there are no known colonies) and ensure that newly established colonies will have no impact on future activities.
Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act requires cooling water intake structures, including those at power plants, to minimize adverse impacts to fish, shellfish and fish larvae from becoming stuck (impinged) on the intake screens or drawn (entrained) into the cooling system. EPA is expected to finalize impingement and entrainment regulations under Section 316(b) in 2012 for existing power plants. Progress Energy is assessing its cooling water intake systems and developing plans to ensure compliance with the new requirements.
At the Brunswick Nuclear Plant near Southport, N.C., which draws water from the lower Cape Fear River, a large fish-diversion fence at the mouth of the intake canal resulted in an approximate 85 to 99 percent reduction in the number of fish impinged during 2011, compared to baseline numbers. In addition, the installation in 2010 of fine-mesh traveling screens and a fish-return system resulted in a 60 to 80 percent reduction in the number of fish larvae entrained in the cooling system. On April 20, 2011, EPA proposed new regulations for cooling water intake structures built before 2002. When the regulations are finalized, Progress Energy will review the new requirements, assess current plant designs and modify as necessary.
Crystal River Mariculture Center
The Crystal River Mariculture Center is a multispecies marine hatchery established to offset the impacts of cooling water systems at our Crystal River Energy Complex in Citrus County, Fla. The center includes an 8,100-square-foot hatchery building and eight 1-acre ponds used to breed marine species for release into the Gulf of Mexico.
The culture and release of these selected species benefit local marine fish and crustacean populations by boosting the numbers that can grow and reproduce, while also contributing to spotted sea trout and red drum recreational fishing opportunities. Marine species are selected based on the estimated level of impact on the species from plant operations as well as their relative recreational and commercial importance. Red drum, spotted sea trout and pink shrimp are the primary species cultured. Forage fish, such as pinfish and pigfish, are also cultured, along with certain crustaceans, such as stone crab and blue crab.
Approximately 100,000 finfish and crustacean juveniles are released into our local coastal areas each year. The Mariculture Center provides an innovative, cost-effective way to manage the environmental impacts of our operations. It also gives us the opportunity to partner with universities, the private sector and state and federal agencies on issues pertaining to aquaculture, stock enhancement and marine biology. Since opening in 1991, the center has released more than 2.7 million spotted sea trout, red drum and shrimp juveniles.
Robust Redhorse conservation
We are a long-time partner in the Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee (RRCC), a cooperative, voluntary conservation partnership formed to help recovery and conservation of the robust redhorse fish, a rare species of sucker fish native to large Atlantic slope rivers in the Carolinas and Georgia. The only known population of robust redhorse in North Carolina inhabits the Pee Dee River below our Blewett hydroelectric plant.
We have participated in several conservation initiatives for the robust redhorse, including efforts to evaluate the species’ population status, research key habitat areas and develop conservation management strategies. Using data collected from capturing and tracking radio-tagged fish, biologists have learned that some adult robust redhorse make spawning migrations from as far away as Cheraw, S.C., upstream to the vicinity of our Blewett Falls dam in Anson and Richmond counties in North Carolina.
Under our new licensing agreement for the Blewett hydroelectric plant, we will release water from the Blewett Falls dam even when the power plant is not operating, to provide habitat for spawning fish, including the robust redhorse. In 2007, Progress Energy awarded a $20,000 grant to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to help fund a collaborative research project with NC State University to study how the new water releases affect robust redhorse spawning below the dam. This research has provided insight into habitat requirements for the species and will greatly aid further conservation efforts for the species in North Carolina. We have voluntarily provided flow releases for spawning habitat enhancement in the interim period before the next license term.
Sea Turtle Protection
The Brunswick Nuclear Plant in North Carolina and the Crystal River Plant in Florida have active capture, tag-and-release programs for sea turtles. At both plants, intake canals are monitored daily during a specified portion of the year for sea turtles. These programs are the result of an Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Progress Energy Florida is also working with the University of Florida on a sea turtle lighting program in the company’s Gulf Coast communities in the Florida panhandle region. This partnership is developing a new lens color and fixture shape for beach streetlights to change lighting intensity and wave length so sea turtle nesting and hatching are not disturbed.
Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)
Our Asheville and Lee plants are certified as WAIT sites by the N.C. Wildlife Federation. WAIT is an environmental program that recognizes industry leadership and fosters public awareness in conservation, wildlife restoration and wildlife protection activities.
At the Asheville Plant, employees have been educated on how to turn their backyards into wildlife-friendly habitat, how to protect endangered species and how to partner with community organizations to educate others. Employees enhanced the plant site to improve wildlife habitats and provide recreational opportunities. Some of these projects include:
The Lee Plant near Goldsboro, N.C., converted 400 acres of the plant property into a habitat for a diversity of wildlife. Wood duck boxes have also been installed on a site next to the Neuse River near the Lee Plant as part of a Boy Scout service project.