The Battle against an Overhead Power Line in the Hula Valley

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Hula Valley is a site of major international importance to over a million wildfowl every year. KKL-JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel led a successful struggle against overhead power lines in the valley that would constitute a grave danger for the local birdlife.

Birds at Hula Lake Relieved: Power Line Nixed

The power line conducting electricity from the wind turbines in the Golan Heights will be installed south of the Hula Valley. Green organizations are pleased, but the Israel Electric Corporation says: “The costs may ultimately affect the price of electricity.”

2016 07 11
Ilana Koriel

The National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) accepted the southern alternative for the overhead power line in the Hula Valley. The line from Sde Eliezer to the substation in Katzerin will be passing south of the Hula Valley and the Hula Nature Reserve, and no additional power line will be crossing the valley as intended.
According to the decision, the new power line will be replacing the existing one, so its installation will not cause any critical damage in the valley. The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and KKL-JNF responded: “Today’s decision is a huge achievement—there will be no more electric power lines in the Hula Valley. We will continue working for the protection of the Hula Valley, and we are calling upon the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to have the high and low power lines that currently exist in the Valley buried underground, as they constitute a severe hazard for the birds, for whom the Hula Valley is an exceptional nature site of global importance.”

Pelicans in the Hula Valley. Photo: Inbar Rubin, KKL-JNF Hula Lake Park

SPNI conducted a prolonged struggle, together with the local councils of northern Israel, in opposition to the power line. IEC had wanted to install an electricity grid with an overhead power line crossing the Hula Valley north of the lake.

“Overhead power lines are serious bird killers in the world,” explained Liron Shapira, the SPNI coordinator for the northern region, in the past. “You’re putting infrastructure there that will decimate X number of birds annually forever. The Hula is an international birding site, a major migration route and the second most important tourist attraction in Israel. Only Masada is more frequented. So the IEC can invest a little more and bury the power line. The State of Israel is a signatory on the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds. The regional council mayors also object. Contrary to all of them, the IEC defines it as national infrastructure. It was discussed by the NIC. The IEC says that an underground line will cost 8 or 10 times more, but it’s expected to cost much less.”

Responding to the present decision, Shapira said: “The power line from the Hula to the Golan, to the wind turbine facility, will not be crossing sensitive areas. This actually means that the status quo will remain, since the existing power line will be eliminated. There won’t be any power lines in the nature reserve or by the lake.”

The power line is expected to conduct electricity from turbines that are at the center of another SPNI struggle.

The IEC explained that burying the line could cost us more in electricity bills: “In the northern Golan Heights, a number of projects are being promoted for generating energy from wind turbines by private electricity production, and the leading project among them is the wind project in Emek Habacha. Conducting the energy from these projects to the national electricity transmission system requires installation of a high power line from the vicinity of the Baron Junction in the Golan Heights to the existing national electricity transmission system.

“A similar line located on the migration route south of the Hula reserve has been coexisting peacefully with the environment, and we know of no harm it has caused to the migrating birds. The underground power line alternative would involve very high costs that could significantly encumber the budgetary framework defined for all the electricity transmission projects, and this would also ultimately affect the price of electricity or even postpone installation of the power line or other projects.”