The preserve was closed for four months as ComEd removed its utility poles from the 320-acre site in an effort to improve conditions for the federally endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly.
The poles were cut at ground level so as not to disturb the rare dolomite prairie habitat found in the preserve, which is located on Division Street, east of Route 53. Helicopters lifted the poles from the ground and they were cut into pieces before being removed from the site.
The work stemmed from planning by a consortium of stakeholders created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to better protect endangered species, including the Hine's emerald dragonfly.
Removal of the poles will avoid future disturbance to habitat from utility line maintenance, said Kristopher Lah, endangered species coordinator with the USFWS office in Chicago.
ComEd built a replacement power line system to the west of the preserve along Route 53. Moving the poles will help the dragonfly and other rare species in the preserve, and the new transmission lines will increase power reliability, said Sara Rice, a senior environmental specialist for the company.
The company's actions to remove the utility poles, which bisected the preserve, will help the Forest Preserve District with future restoration efforts, said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve District's chief operating officer. Now that the poles are gone, it will be easier for the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with a planned multimillion-dollar habitat restoration project at the preserve.
In addition to the Hine's emerald dragonfly, Lockport Prairie also is home to the federally endangered leafy prairie clover, the federally threatened lakeside daisy and the state-endangered golden corydalis, tall sunflower, American brooklime, white beak rush, slender bog arrow grass, marsh speedwell, spotted turtle, Blanding's turtle and Kirtland's snake.