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Sen. Brewer: Push for further R-Project study

This week was an important one for the Brewer office and the many people of the 43rd District. For the past 2½ years, my staff and I have been working on the problems associated with the “R-Project.” This is a 225-mile, high-voltage power line that Nebraska Public Power District wants to build through the heart of the Sandhills so they can connect future wind energy projects to the power grid. This scheme will cause untold damage to the Sandhills and impact the most iconic endangered species in the country – the whooping crane.

We began by engaging with NPPD on these concerns. Despite the availability of other routes that are already in existing utility corridors and that avoid the Sandhills, NPPD stubbornly refuses to change the route of the line.

Following this, we contacted the Nebraska Ecological Services Field Office in Wood River. The employees there are Nebraskans and they once led the environmental impact study for the R-Project. They were suddenly and unexpectedly removed from the project last fall.

We then drove out to Denver and met with the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was obvious they had been influenced by NPPD’s full-time lobbyist and refused to address the many constituent concerns with this project.

We next had a teleconference with the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and were stonewalled once again. I followed up by contacting the Inspector General’s Office of the Secretary of the Interior.

From the IG’s report, I learned the NESFO biologists had written a report using the best available science. This report concluded that the R-Project would kill a number of whooping cranes. I personally believe this prompted the Denver USFWS regional office to take the Wood River employees off the project. I learned the Denver office had also published a report on the environmental impact of the R-Project. The final environmental impact study for the R-Project is rife with serious errors so obvious that ordinary citizens have pointed them out. The study is also woefully incomplete. Whole sections of this report on the impact of wind energy, and on cultural and historic sites, have not been finished.

Working with Congressman Adrian Smith, my office secured a meeting with the assistant secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C. Congressman Smith also voiced concerns with the R-Project and he attended the meeting with me. I am grateful for the congressman’s collaboration. I briefed the assistant secretary and requested she direct the USFWS do the supplemental environmental impact study on the R-Project. This work is needed to address the terribly flawed and incomplete final environmental impact study. Sadly, NPPD is opposed to doing this.

Contact your NPPD board member and ask them to support doing this supplemental study. Tell them too much is at stake to ram through this seriously defective report. Let them know they need to take the time to get this right. You can find your board member at nppd.com/about-us/director-subdivisions or call 402-806-0266.

Contact Sen. Tom Brewer: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov