The federal environmental impact statement about a proposed electrical transmission line through the Sandhills is woefully inadequate, Sen. Tom Brewer said Friday.
Brewer recently traveled to Washington D.C. and discussed the project with the assistant director of the U.S. Department of Interior.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an 857-page environmental impact statement about the project, developed at a cost of $1.8 million, but the expansive study overlooks the latest information on whooping cranes that migrate through the area, Brewer said.
Brewer said the plan to build the line is a “scheme” that “will cause untold damage to the Sandhills and impact the most iconic endangered species in the country – the whooping crane.”
If the line is built, it will stretch across 225 miles of the Sandhills, from Sutherland north to Thedford and then east to Holt County, crossing the whooping crane’s migratory path.
Accompanied by Rep. Adrian Smith, Brewer told the assistant director of the Department of Interior that the latest information on the impact of the line on the endangered whooping crane is missing in the final impact statement.
The latest information was compiled in 2017-18 by two Fish and Wildlife employees, using information from whooping crane surveys conducted since 2014. But, the two USF&W staffers who compiled information from those surveys were taken off the project.
Wind farm connection
The R-Project line is under development by the Nebraska Public Power District. The letter R stands for the “reliability” of a new line, the “renewable” wind energy it would transmit, and the congestion of existing lines it would “relieve,” NPPD says.
If the R-Project line is built, it will soon connect to wind turbine projects in the Sandhills.
A wind farm named Cascade by Bluestem Energy Solutions of Omaha would place 147 wind generators north of Thedford. The plans are already recorded with the Federal Aviation Administration, said Tyler Rath, who ranches in that area.
At least two other wind farms are on the books to connect to the R-transmission line – one in Cherry County and one on the east end of the line – and more wind farms are likely, according to public records.
“The R·Project, though described as a transmission line, is actually a wind development project,” said Micheal George, the conservation director for Ducks Unlimited. “Its construction will encourage and facilitate wind turbines to be constructed and operated along the entire route of the line.”
Brewer asks those who are concerned and affected to contact board members of the Nebraska Public Power District and ask them to support doing the supplemental study.
“Tell them too much is a stake to ram-through this seriously defective report,” he said Friday in his weekly column (for the full column, click on the Opinion page, above.)
NPPD board members are listed at: https://www.nppd.com/about-us/director-subdivisions or by calling 402-806-0266.
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