Hula electricity line

The Battle against an Overhead Power Line in the Hula Valley

The Israel Electric Corporation supports the construction of an overhead power line across the Hula Valley all the way to the Golan Heights. KKL-JNF, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, however, explain that an overhead power line of this kind is liable to cause the death of many hundreds of birds every year, including members of endangered species. It will also spoil one of Israel’s most popular natural tourism venues, and the three organizations have called upon the Electric Corporation to ensure that the power line is buried underground.
The Israel Electric Corporation supports the construction of an overhead power line that will cross the Hula Valley on its way to the Golan Heights, where it is supposed to connect up to wind farms not yet in existence whose construction will perhaps never be approved. KKL-JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel warn that overhead power lines constitute a grave danger both for the local birdlife and for the Hula Valley’s huge environmental tourism project. Because of this, the three organizations have united behind the slogan “Birds in the sky, electricity in the ground,” to call for the power line to be buried underground.

“The Hula Valley is a site of major international importance to over a million wildfowl every year, including storks, cranes, raptors and songbirds,” the opponents of the overhead power line explain. “Over one million people come to visit the Hula Valley, which is a shining example of a national and international enterprise that benefits both nature and humankind.”

The Hula Valley is renowned throughout the world, and it is one of Israel’s most popular tourist venues. Around a million birds pass through the site every year. In spring and autumn over one hundred thousand cranes, some fifty thousand pelicans (the entire great white pelican population that nests in Europe and Asia Minor), some three hundred thousand white storks and thousands of black storks (a relatively rare species whose population worldwide is numbered only in the tens of thousands) all pass through the Hula Valley. In addition, tens of thousands of ducks remain over winter at the lake, among them rare species such as the marbled duck – which also nests locally – and a variety of heron species, including hundreds of specimens of the comparatively rare great egret.
Cranes on Hula Lake. Photo: Dov Grinblat, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

In spring and autumn, large numbers of raptors and members of endangered bird species whose numbers are already dwindling with the passing years stop over in the Hula Valley. For the past twenty years a project for returning white-tailed eagles to the wild has been underway at the site. This species became extinct in the area in the 1950s when the Hula Swamps were drained, but now, thanks to this project, seven or eight members of the species can now be observed flying in the area all year round.

It should be noted that Israel is a signatory to a number of international treaties for the protection both of the migratory bird species that overwinter or stop over within its borders and of the habitats that allow them to do so. As Israel has adopted these treaties and they have been ratified by its government, they are in force throughout the country. Thus Israel is obliged to protect these species in general terms, and during their seasons of migration in particular.

“The Hula Valley is one of the world’s most important nesting, overwintering and migration sites for a great many species of wildfowl,” conclude KKL-JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. “The valley’s importance lies in the particularly wide variety of species that use it and in the large number of individual specimens found there all year round. The Hula Valley is defined internationally as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and it is recognized as an international bird-watching site. We call upon the Electric Corporation to promote proper planning, to refrain from introducing overhead power lines into areas where there is a great deal of bird activity and to bury the planned cable underground. Every overhead cable in the Hula Valley poses a grave threat to birdlife, as the wildfowl tend to collide with them. Research in the USA has shown that overhead power lines cause the death of around eighty large wildfowl annually for every kilometer of their length. This means that a power cable planned to extend for several kilometers will cause the death of many hundreds of birds every year.”

Dead pelicans in the Hula Valley. Photo: Nature and Parks Authority