By SHARON UDASIN 02/18/2015

Installation of overhead power lines in the area pose a serious threat to the Hula Valley, which has become an international beacon for ecotourism

A high voltage, above-ground electricity line planned to cross the Hula Valley could threaten the lives of hundreds of birds every year, according to environmental groups.

The Israel Electric Corporation is promoting the installation of the electricity line, which is set to cross the Hula Valley and reach the Golan Heights to connect potential future wind farms, the organizations explained in a statement released on Tuesday.

Among the protesting groups are the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund.

“Israel has signed a number of conventions for the preservation of birds found in the Hula Valley,” the groups said. “We call upon the IEC to promote the burial of an underground line.”

Installation of overhead power lines in the area pose a serious threat to the Hula Valley, which has become an international beacon for ecotourism and provides a place of respite for more than a million migratory birds each year, the organizations explained. Among the many types of migratory birds stopping in the valley, some of which are considered endangered, are storks, cranes, raptors, pelicans and songbirds.

The Hula Valley, which receives more than a million human visitors per year, has become one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, the environmental organizations said.

Each fall and spring, more than 100,000 cranes, about 50,000 pelicans – including the entire population of white pelicans from Europe and Asia Minor – about 300,000 white storks and thousands of rare black storks pass through the region, their statement continued.

In addition to these birds, tens of thousands of ducks, egrets and others also stop in the Hula Valley.

Many birds of prey and endangered species also pass through the region. In the last two decades, a Hula Valley conservation project has operated to revive the population of white-tailed eagles that became extinct in the 1950s, the organizations said. There are still only about seven or eight individuals flying around the area, they continued.

About a million domestic fowl also come through the Hula Valley each year, the organizations added.

“The Hula Valley is one of the most important sites in the world for nesting, wintering and migration, for a wide variety of bird species,” the environmental groups said.

In response to the demands made by the groups for an underground electricity line and the warnings regarding the birds, the IEC stressed that the overhead line would “conduct electricity, which would be produced by a number of wind farms designed to generate clean energy on the Golan Heights.”

“Designation of the route is under preliminary processes of examination with respect to alternatives, in the National Infrastructures Committee,” the statement from the IEC said. “For years, the IEC has been working with the INPA to install protective measures to prevent harm to birds from the power supply, and will likewise do so for the line to the wind farm turbines.”