PLJV Works With Industry to Guide Energy Development Near Playas

The western Great Plains provides abundant energy resources—from oil and gas to wind and solar—but often the necessary infrastructure needed to capture that energy is placed in the middle of or near playas. To help energy developers understand the importance of playas and how to preserve their functionality as wildlife habitat and recharge wetlands, PLJV recently developed energy development siting recommendations near playas.

“As we work with farmers and ranchers to restore playas on private lands, we realize there is also conservation value to informing industry about the location, ecological value and societal benefit of playas so they can do their part to protect playas when planning new infrastructure,” says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “We see these guidelines as PLJV’s piece of the puzzle in making all energy as green as possible.”

The siting guidelines advises all energy development avoid playa clusters and large isolated playas, which are important stopover sites for waterfowl, shorebirds and waterbirds, as well as the birds that prey on them. In developing these guidelines, our goal is to provide energy developers with a tool that will significantly reduce future impacts to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as reduce the potential for regulatory exposure.

“We believe infrastructure on or near playas may adversely affect wildlife habitat, increase the risk of collision mortality for waterfowl and other wetland birds, and reduce the playa’s water-holding capacity,” says Anne Bartuszevige, PLJV Conservation Science Coordinator and lead author on the guidelines. “Even when Infrastructure is placed among a cluster of playas, the constant disturbance and persistent noise in the area may indirectly impact many bird species.”

Playas also recharge the Ogallala Aquifer by allowing percolation of surface water through the clay layer of soil in the basin at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than through inter-playa areas. Energy development on playas may limit this hydrologic function.

Posted: May 23, 2017