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Sandhills Ranchers Challenge NPPD Powerline Project

mitch_Paine_cattle

Photo by Mitch Paine / Bold Nebraska

Ranchers in the Sandhills of Central Nebraska are challenging the route of a high-capacity transmission power line project that has been proposed by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD).

They are currently intervening in the Nebraska Power Review Board (PRB) process, arguing that the line would negatively impact the fragile sandhills soils and ecosystem, on which their businesses are based.  Aside from cattle ranching, landowners in the Garfield and Loup  county area rely on the region’s pristine natural setting and abundant wildlife for eco-tourism income such as birdwatching, hunting, and nature tours.  The ranchers are urging NPPD to consider an alternate route that would traverse the Sandhills further north and take advantage of existing infrastructure such as highways and other power line corridors.

In a September hearing, ranchers pled their case to the PRB, siting loss of income and devaluation of property as two of the biggest reasons they oppose the route of the project.  NPPD’s lawyers attempted to argue that the ranchers lacked standing, because they are not power suppliers, and only power suppliers can intervene in the process.

The Power Review Board disagreed with the Nebraska Public Power District’s argument that “only power suppliers should be intervenors” in the process of determining the necessity of public power infrastructure projects.  The ranchers from the Burwell area who are working together to save their land, wildlife, and eco-tourism businesses from the negative effects of the massive proposed NPPD transmission line will have their say at a hearing before the PRB on October 10.  The ranchers had requested at least a 60-day continuance, NPPD argued for a 30-day continuance, which ended up being granted.  This shorter timeline has made it more difficult for ranchers engaging in fall calving to be able to prepare for the hearing.

Ranchers in Lincoln county have also expressed concern over proposed water crossings of the transmission project and the impact on bird and waterfowl habitat in the area.  They have proposed a western alternative route that would avoid crossing sensitive areas of the Platte River and Birdwood Creek.  Their proposal, rejected by NPPD, is supported by staff members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

While Bold Nebraska supports transmission lines for renewable energy projects, we also believe in protecting our state’s most valuable natural resources, such as the Sandhills.  It is also unclear to us, as well as to the landowners in the proposed transmission line route, what criteria were used to select the preferred route.  We know that any new infrastructure project that utilizes private property will cause some negative responses from some landowners, but to be fair to those landowners, they need to be treated with respect and need to be assured that their property wasn’t “selected” by drawing an arbitrary line from point A to point B on a map.  We agree that existing infrastructure should be utilized whenever possible.  NPPD’s preferred route, which cuts through a pristine area of the Sandhills that has very few, if any access roads, might not be the wisest location for such a large project.  We encourage citizens and especially residents near the proposed route of this project to attend the Power Review Board hearing to show your support of these landowners and to learn more about the process involved in large public power infrastructure projects in our state.

Action:

Attend the Power Review Board hearing on October 10th.  Show your support for Sandhills ranchers and landowners who are demanding a fair and transparent process in determining the location of transmission line projects in our state.

  • What: Power Review Board Hearing
  • When: October 10th, 9:00 AM
  • Where: Liquor Control Commission Hearing Room, 301 Centennial Mall South, Lincoln

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