Baltimore Gas & Electric Company - BGE Rights-of-Way Environmental Stewardship Program

Project #: 100678  –   Updated: January 28, 2014

Project Summary

Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) currently manages a total of 550 miles of electric transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) in Maryland. Two particular sites within BGE's ROW management are the Columbia site and the South River site. The Columbia site is a suburban ROW in Howard County, Maryland, halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The site consists of rolling hills dropping into wetlands with small streams and about half of the area surrounded by forest. Approximately 16 acres of grassland prairie, two acres of shrub-scrub riparian areas, and seven acres in the wetland areas are activ...

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Location (by county):

Watersheds:
Gunpowder-Patapsco

Congressional Districts:
MD District 07

Bird Conservation Regions:

USFWS Regions:

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Project Site 1 No

Full Project Description

Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) currently manages a total of 550 miles of electric transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) in Maryland. Two particular sites within BGE's ROW management are the Columbia site and the South River site. The Columbia site is a suburban ROW in Howard County, Maryland, halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The site consists of rolling hills dropping into wetlands with small streams and about half of the area surrounded by forest. Approximately 16 acres of grassland prairie, two acres of shrub-scrub riparian areas, and seven acres in the wetland areas are actively managed. Hawks, owls, songbirds, deer, fox, rabbit, and pollinating insects are commonly seen feeding on vegetation in the ROW. The South River site, approximately ten minutes from Annapolis, Maryland, is a rural ROW that includes a mixture of upland prairie with grass and forbs (13 acres of which are actively managed), shrub-scrub habitat within a ravine (12 acres of which are actively managed) and along the ROW forest borders, as well as some patches of shrub habitat scattered within the prairie. Bald eagles, hawks, orioles, indigo bunting, and the prairie warbler have been seen in the area. Mammals, including deer, fox, rabbits, and insects, including pollinators like butterflies, moths and bees, also use resources within the South River ROW.

The main objective and prescriptions for both sites include using Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) techniques in order to control the tall growing, incompatible trees in the areas to allow more space for low growing grass, forbs and shrubs. Research has shown that a managed ROW can provide much-needed early successional habitat that benefit a wide variety of birds, pollinators and other wildlife. By removing invasive species and allowing natural competition between species to take place, the wildlife team is hoping to encourage native habitats that will both benefit wildlife and prevent hazardous electrical situations on the ROWs.

A pilot area of the Columbia site was tested in October, 2009, with various vegetation management techniques in order to determine which methods would work best given the vegetation outline and topography. Treated areas included those dominated by such species as autumn olive, tree-of-heaven, multiflora rose, and Japanese honeysuckle. The entire ROW pilot area that was originally treated in 2009 had an efficacy rate on target plants of 95%, and received a follow-up selective treatment in October 2010. An area near Lake Elkhorn and along nature trails had a severe infestation of invasive mile-a-minute weed and received a pre-emergent herbicide treatment in March 2010 to suppress germination. In the spring of 2009, four botanical studies conducted by the Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage were begun and include one wetland study, one brush and two grassland studies. The purpose of these studies is to establish baseline data of the plant species and density due to the regimen of mowing and hand cutting vegetation, and then to document over the next two years the changes in plant species and density due to the introduction of herbicide treatments with an integrated vegetation management approach. This data will help guide future vegetation management practices on similar suburban ROWs and can help educate other utilities, government agencies and conservation organizations in the best vegetation management practices. A nature trail at the Columbia site is also enhanced through the use of interpretive signage to explain the IVM practices and results, as well as some common species that may be seen along the trail.

The South River site is particularly important as it provides watershed protection for the South River and the Chesapeake Bay. In May 2009, a preliminary review of the site was produced to determine what the conditions were and what the realistic results would be of vegetation management. In 2007 and 2008 all tall growing trees on steep slopes and in wetlands that previously had been allowed to grow were removed by BGE. Similar to what was found at the Columbia site the routine mowing of accessible upland areas was tolerated and expected in South River. However, this routine cutting was encouraging the establishment of many non-native invasive plants. In 2010, the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory provided the team with instructions on how to conduct a bee survey to determine the species that may be present on-site. The patchwork of vegetation provided by a mixture of prairie and shrubs would also be optimal for food and cover resources for various birds.

Since their last certification in 2011, the BGE team has continued studying and selectively treating managed areas in both ROW locations. They have aggregated their data and evaluated it to understand the effectiveness of their program over the last four years. The team has experienced many great successes. In all treated areas, the amount of invasive and undesirable trees, shrubs and vines decreased from being the dominant vegetation presence (over 50% ground cover) to being greatly reduced or eradicated. In control plots, areas that received mowing treatments common in ROW areas, the amount of invasive species present continued to increase, reaching compositions of almost 90%. In some test plots, IVM management has resulted in strong native habitats and botanical studies are no longer needed to monitor those areas. Many interest groups, from federal government agencies to industry groups and conservation non-profits, have been so impressed with results that they actively study the area. IVM Partners has hosted many workshops and site tours on the ROW locations to explain their techniques and their long-term successes. Many industry groups have expressed interest in using these techniques in ROWs across the country.

Through the BGE Rights-of-Way Environmental Stewardship Program, which was certified as a Corporate Lands for Learning program in 2011, electric transmission right-of-way habitat sites are used as outdoor classrooms where professional land managers learn how to manage native habitat in rights-of-way. Annual workshops allow representatives of utility companies, public agencies and conservation organizations to learn from the experience of the Constellation Energy pilot projects. Features of these workshops include comparison of treated and non-treated areas, classroom instruction, field tours, and demonstrations of management methods and best practice procedures. Past workshops also facilitated participants' professional development by offering continuing education units through the International Society of Arboriculture and herbicide applicator training credits through the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Employees and contractors also regularly attend these workshops as part of their professional development.

The program strives to disseminate IVM research findings at scientific conferences, such as the Wildlife Habitat Council annual symposium. The BGE Rights-of-Way Environmental Stewardship Program presented project results to conference attendees and conducted a field tour of both rights-of-way projects on the site. These efforts help to educate other companies and land managers learn about IVM best practices and how they are applicable to managing their own facilities. Conferences also provide the opportunity for outreach to tribal nations, federal and state agencies, and conservationists.

Actions

Project Actions
Control encroaching species Show/Hide details
Other: Improve Landscape Connectivity Show/Hide details
Control invasive plants Show/Hide details
Other: Wildlife at Work Show/Hide details
Other: Corporate Lands for Learning Show/Hide details
Education Show/Hide details

Outcomes

Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   No/Unknown

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Organization

Exelon Corporation
(Company/Business)

Primary Contact

Corinne Lackner Stephens
Wildlife Habitat Council
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