November 27, 2014

NPPD: Sand Hills high-voltage line to “benefit all of our customers” (AUDIO)

Sand Hills, Loup County (UNL photo)

Sand Hills, Loup County (UNL photo)

Officials say the high-voltage electrical transmission line that’s proposed to cut through 220 miles of Nebraska’s Sand Hills region is designed to have a positive impact on the entire state’s power infrastructure.

Mark Becker, spokesman for Nebraska Public Power District, says the upgrade is needed, not because there isn’t enough power but because the current lines can’t carry what’s needed during times of high demand.

“That will benefit all of our customers throughout the state,” Becker says. “It will be another way for electricity to get out to the load centers. We’ve had ice storms in the past that have basically cut off our power lines and we’ve been forced then to buy electicity out of the market at a higher price than what it costs us to generate.”

Some residents in the Sand Hills have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the $350-million project. Becker says NPPD is planning to build sturdy piers in key locations that would eliminate the need to haul in large cranes or heavy cement trucks.

“These would be basically screwed into the ground, 60 to 70 feet, and then we would helicopter in the structures piece by piece,” Becker says. “We want to reduce the amount of damage that would be done during this construction process.”

The Sand Hills region is a “fragile” environment, Becker says, and there will be an impact with this massive project.

“We’re looking at every possible way to minimize that impact,” Becker says. “We’re also working with the University of Nebraska to look at ways for how do we bring the Sand Hills back from any kind of damage we do create.”

The transmission line project is expected to cost more than $350-million, but Becker says Nebraska customers will only be paying for about 7% of that cost. The rest, he says, would be shared by other utilities across the region that are part of the Southwest Power Pool.

The transmission line’s route is still in the “proposal phase,” and the project is in the midst of a 30-day public comment period which runs through mid-December. NPPD has already held 18 open houses on the project across the Sand Hills region and it’s been approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board.

AUDIO: Full interview with NPPD’s Mark Becker 4:45

New agreement reached on use of Republican River

Republican_RiverNebraska has reached agreement with Kansas and Colorado on use of the Republican River.

Representatives of the three states have signed a resolution which approves adjustments to the Republican River Compact. Representatives tout the changes as beneficial to all three states and say they set a course toward long-term solutions to persistent problems.

The Chairman of the Republican River Compact Administration, Brian Dunnigan, Nebraska Director of the Department of Natural Resources, noted U.S. Supreme Court Special Master William Kayatta encouraged the states to work toward greater consensus for administering the waters of the Basin.

“It is in that spirit that the states have negotiated the resolution that was approved today,” Dunnigan said in a written statement released by the administration.

The signed agreement makes adjustments in how water from the Republican River is distributed for irrigation. Nebraska will receive a 100% credit for water delivered from augmentation projects to Harlan County Lake prior to June 1, 2015, and the delivered water is for exclusive use by Kansas irrigators.

This is the third agreement reached among the states. Two others were signed in October.

One of those agreements will ensure the Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District in north central Kansas has enough water for next year’s crops. The other agreement works to insure Colorado and Kansas works together to improve the water available to Kansas farmers from the South Fork Republican River. Colorado will receive create for augmenting the North Fork Republican River.

The agreement comes even as the United States Supreme Court considers a legal dispute between Nebraska and Kansas over the use of the Republican River.

Sand Hills residents protest planned NPPD power line

Sand Hills, Loup County (UNL photo)

Sand Hills, Loup County (UNL photo)

Some landowners oppose a project by the Nebraska Public Power District to build a high-voltage electrical transmission line across the Sand Hills.

Troy Petersen is a rancher in Holt and Wheeler counties and says one concern is that construction equipment will tear up the fragile Sand Hills.

“They plan on using 25-ton cranes on sandy Sand Hill pasture,” Peterson says. “That’s not going to work. The equipment is just too heavy.”

Petersen says another big concern is that the sandy soil will blow away once it’s disturbed by the utility’s construction work.

“Every time the NPPD is going to come in and drill for one of their towers, they’ll be creating a blowout,” Peterson says. “After they leave, all of that sandy ground is going to be disturbed and when that wind starts blowing, it’s just going to create a blowout.”

Petersen says many landowners likely won’t sign the necessary easements so the project can go forward, which may force the utility to adopt more drastic measures, like trying to seize the land.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of people who are not going to be willing to give up their land,” he says. “One of the things they talked about was going into eminent domain if they have to.”

Petersen says NPPD will have a hard time getting eminent domain because they haven’t proven in a court that it’s a necessary project. Also, there are substations on either end of the proposed project but he says neither one will supply power to customers in the Sand Hills.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Conservation asks public for help in poached elk case

Photo courtesy of Game and Parks Commission

Photo courtesy of Game and Parks Commission

Conservation officers hope the public can help in their investigation of the poaching of a bull elk.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports an elk was shot and killed illegally and then abandoned west of Crawford on the Peterson Wildlife Management Area. Firearm deer season began Saturday. Elk are currently out of season.

The Peterson Wildlife area is a 2,460 acre property managed by Game and Parks for public hunting in northwestern Nebraska.

Anyone with information that leads to the prosecution of the violators may be eligible for a reward, according to Game and Parks. All tips may remain anonymous.

Conservation Officer Dan Kling said any information, regardless of how small, may be significant to the case. He can be reached at 308-430-0572. People with information also may contact the Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers hotline at 800-742-7627.

Second mountain lion taken in Prairie Unit

Photo courtesy of NEBRASAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Photo courtesy of NEBRASAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

A hunter has taken an 89-pound female mountain lion in Dakota County.

The Nebraska Games and Parks Commission reports it is the second mountain lion taken in the Prairie Unit. Mountain lion hunting in the Prairie Unit has been open all year. Mountain lion hunting is closed in all other units.