If you have stayed updated online, you may have read that we are well underway with construction in phase two of our MidSouth Fiber project build-out. Fiber construction is a three-year, three phase project to bring lightning fast fiber internet to members across our territory. What you might not see are some of the challenges that the cooperative faces to accomplish such a large-scale project. From permitting to inclement weather and hurricane season, our crews and staff are working hard to bring all our local communities the fast, reliable internet they have been longing for.
With a large section of phase two residing within the Sam Houston National Forest, we have found that some of our more recent challenges have come in a little bit smaller form, a woodpecker to be exact. For many years, MidSouth Electric Co-op has worked closely with the Sam Houston State Park and the Forest Service to run power to our members who live in these remote woods while also doing our part to ensure we do our very best to help protect and limit the disturbance of local wildlife. The adoption of new safety and maintenance practices and standards over the years allows MidSouth to help in the efforts to restore and preserve the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker species located in our service territory.
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is unique in that, it lives in live pine trees making the National Forest a prime spot during breeding season. One of the tools we use to limit our presence in the forest is state of the art mapping. “Our Geographic Information System (GIS) department has added no work ‘breeding areas’ to our mapping system given to us by the forest service. Then we distribute them digitally and hardcopy to our crews and contractors so that they know where work is not to be done during the breading season.”, said John Kretzschmar, MidSouth EC GIS Supervisor.
The effort to preserve the species made by local conservation groups and the wildlife and forest service has made such an impact that in December of 2020, legislation was presented that would move the woodpecker species classification from endangered to threatened. This is a major accomplishment that has been more than 30 years in the making and can be seen while visiting many of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker interpretive sites around the Sam Houston National Forest.
So whether it means running lines underground, filing extra permitting, or adding Red-Cockaded Woodpecker breeding grounds to our mapping systems, MidSouth is committed to do our part to help the species thrive while working hard to bring our members fiber fast internet. It may alter or change the speed of construction in the area, but we are happy to make our contributions to the effort.