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Ban on windmills proposed for Sandhills

A bill in the state Legislature would ban development of wind energy generators in the Sandhills for two years, and create a task force to study the ramifications of wind turbines.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer, who represents north central Nebraska’s district 43, which covers most of the Sandhills.

Brewer told Nebraska Educational Television that wind development was the second-largest concern of his constituents during his campaign, next to high property taxes.

His bill says wind energy is of such importance to the public health, safety, and welfare that the state should take appropriate action to regulate its use.

According to the language of the bill, the Legislature “finds and declares that the approximately 19,300-square-mile sand dune formation located in north central Nebraska known as the Sandhills comprises one of the largest contiguous tracts of grassland remaining in the United States. The area consists of approximately 11 million acres of grassland and 1 million acres of wetlands,” and recharges the Ogallala Aquifer formation which contain a storage capacity of nearly 1 billion acre-feet of underground water.

Noting the fragile, grass-stabilized sand dunes of this region, the bill recognizes that it provides habitat for more than 700 native plant species, 300 species of birds, 55 species of mammals, 75 species of fish, and 27 species of reptile and amphibians.

And, 80 percent of the world’s population of sand hills cranes migrate through the Sandhills every year, the bill says.

The Director of Natural Resources would appoint a special task force of not more than 13 members “to study and make recommendations relating to the siting of wind-generated energy projects in the Sandhills region of the state,” the bill says.

The task force would submit its findings and recommendations to the Legislature not later than Dec. 1, 2019.