Nebraska Public Power District has proposed construction of a 345-kilovolt transmission line (R-Project) extending from Sutherland in southwest Nebraska to eastern Holt County in north-central Nebraska. This 225-mile high-voltage transmission line will traverse the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills.
The Nebraska Sandhills covers 19,600 square miles of north-central Nebraska and contains 1.3 million acres of wetlands. It is the largest and most intricate wetland ecosystem in the United States. It is also the largest stabilized sand dune region in the world and one of the largest contiguous grasslands in the world.
The Sandhills are a unique and fragile ecosystem that remain relatively pristine and unaltered. They are home to 314 vertebrate species and 720 plant species, including a number of endangered species. Part of the central flyway, the Sandhills wetlands, are crucial habitat to migratory birds, including ducks, geese, swans and the whooping crane.
One of the purposes of the NPPD R-Project, particularly regarding its location, is to promote industrial energy development in the form of wind energy. This will further add to the violation and destruction of this fragile environment. Many, if not most, of the residents of the Sandhills feel that industrial energy development is entirely unsuitable for this fragile, pristine, and undisturbed ecoregion. There has been strong grass-roots opposition to this project.
On July 17, a private meeting of Sandhills landowners, residents and concerned citizens was arranged in Thedford. Robert Harms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was invited to answer questions regarding the draft environmental impact statement relating to the R-Project issued in June.
Permitting for injury to endangered species and damage to their habitat is crucial to NPPD for construction of the R-Project.
Harms arrived in Thedford before the meeting time. He was then contacted by the Denver USFWS office and told that because of complaints by NPPD to the Washington, D.C. USFWS office, they had given an edict that he was barred from meeting with these members of the public.
As approximately 45 concerned citizens from many counties gathered for this meeting, Harms was already en route back to his office in Alda.
One has to ask why NPPD wants the public to be uninformed.
They have shown themselves to be a heavy handed and arrogant bureaucratic organization with the easement acquisition process and always with the threat of eminent domain/condemnation.
Now they have directly intervened to prevent a public servant from speaking to and informing members of the public.
NPPD is well funded with a bevy of lawyers and lobbyists at both state and federal levels. It seems that power brokers and big money continue to dominate Washington politics and that Abraham Lincoln’s “Government of the People, by the People, and for the People” may be just a pipe dream.
Brent L. Steffen, M.D., Kearney
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