Empowering Communities

A Big Move for a Small Creature: Protecting the Endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly

January 10, 2017

An insect’s life can be tough.

Take, for example, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, which makes its home in marshes and meadows overlaying dolomite bedrock. This insect doesn’t stand a chance of keeping its home — or its life — when pesticides, pollutants, and urban and industrial development threaten to ruin its habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

But ComEd is hoping to make it easier for the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly by implementing a months-long project to remove electrical equipment near the dragonfly’s home in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve in Lockport Township.

ComEd’s project involves cutting down utility poles and using helicopters to carefully lift the poles from the ground in an effort to cause as little disturbance to the habitat as possible. In addition, ComEd will use rope to lift and remove the power lines to prevent them from touching the ground of the sensitive habitat.

Removing the equipment from the preserve enables ComEd crews to more easily perform regular maintenance on the equipment without disrupting the habitat. To ensure that this insect-protecting move doesn’t impact customers, ComEd has already built electrical equipment west of the preserve to maintain services for customers in the Lockport Township area.

“A number of endangered species have made their homes in and near ComEd’s lands, so we work hard to minimize the impact to these environments while maintaining the reliable service that our customers expect,” says Sara Race, a Senior Environmental Compliance Specialist with ComEd.

ComEd has been planning this project for approximately 10 years in conjunction with the USFWS and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ComEd will remove the electrical equipment from the preserve from November through February 2017 – the best timeframe to avoid disrupting the habitat.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is approximately 2.5 inches long with emerald-green eyes, a metallic green body, and yellow stripes on its sides, according to the USFWS. Considered extinct in the mid-1900s, the dragonfly was discovered in the Des Plaines River Valley in 1988. It makes its home in wetlands in Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

“Dragonflies are important to the environment not only for their beauty, but for the role they play in the ecosystem by eating insects such as mosquitoes and serving as food for fish,” Race says. “ComEd is committed to protecting the environment as our crews work in and around wetlands, prairies, and other ecologically sensitive areas.”