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Landowners speak out as NPPD considers route of new transmission line  

Credit:  By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief | November 10, 2014 | www.nebraska.tv ~~

Landowners speak out, saying the state’s largest electric provider could disturb the fragile ecosystem of the Sandhills. The project has environmental activists torn, because they also find reasons to support it.

It would improve the electrical grid in areas where wind farms may be built, and help get clean power out to the world. But landowners worry the route could harm the Sandhills.

“We want renewable resources but you don’t renew the Sandhills,” said Amy Ballagh, a rancher from the Burwell area.

NPPD says the R-Project would make the electrical grid more reliable in case of storm.”If there is another ice storm, hopefully we don’t have all the lines impacted like before,” said Tom Kent, Chief Operating Officer of NPPD.

It would also make those large lines closer to wind farms.

Kent said, “In this area of the state, it’s very wind–rich, they need transmission to do that.”

Those who support green energy say that infrastructure is needed. That includes Bold Nebraska. But they don’t like the route, and neither do landowners like Amy Ballagh.

She said, “I’m just passionate about the fact we need to protect the Sandhills. Why would Nebraskans want to risk losing the one treasure we have that no other state in the nation has.”

The R–Project as its known would travel through 11 counties. No one would be forced to sell their land, only allow NPPD to use a 200 foot strip. That strip would be 220 miles long.

Landowners would still be allowed to raise crops and cattle along the route.

Tom Kent of NPPD said, “I’s important to us to get as much public input as we look for a route that minimizes landowners and how they use their property.”

At a public hearing in Burwell on Monday, NPPD officials explained they would use helicopters in areas to minimize truck travel.

And they’re working with experts to protect the Sandhills.

They also have to get permission from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kent said, “As part of the process we have to develop a habitat conservation plan so we can show how we’ll minimize and mitigate any impact to the beetles.”

A press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the line is likely to impact the American burying beetle.

That will require an environmental impact study (EIS) which will also look at geology, soil and water, air quality, recreation, transportation, and more.

“The Service is also interested in learning about the presence of archaeological sites, buildings and structures, historic sites, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic preservation concerns in the proposed project area. The Service also seeks information about the direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation of the HCP could have on any of these resources, as well as the beetle. The Service is also seeking information about other reasonable alternatives to the proposed HCP and permit issuance that should be considered and their potential effects,” the press release stated.

NPPD has received 2,000 comments from the public, which they hope to review in the next 30 days before finalizing the route.

The public hearings are one last chance for those like Amy Ballagh to make their case.

“We’re not just trying to argue, we want them to look at places the ground’s already been disturbed,” she said.

Hearing Schedule:Taylor Loup County Community Center

Monday, November 7

Open House 6-7 p.m.

Public Hearing 7-9 p.m.

Bartlett

Wheeler Central High School

Wednesday, November 12

Open House 12-1 p.m.

Public Hearing 1-3 p.m.

Chambers

Community Center

Wednesday, November 12

Open House 6-7 p.m.

Public Hearing 7-9 p.m.

For more visit: http://www.nppd.com/rproject/

Source:  By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief | November 10, 2014 | www.nebraska.tv

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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