25 May 2018

Chronology of Wind Turbine Actions Within Cherry County

Including Ancillary Notes on Wind Turbine Facilities and the Proposed R-Project Across the Sand Hills

Compilation by James E. Ducey, Valentine, NE. Initially prepared February 5, 2018; second version February 13th. Updated May 21, 2018. Photographs taken by J.E. Ducey.

This chronology is indicative of actions associated with wind turbine facilities and powerlines within the sand hill region during the past 20 years as developers have planned for turbine facilities and industrial powerlines as wanted by private companies, utility companies and regional power agencies.

Some industrial wind turbine facilities have come to fruition, while others have not. The three primary turbine facilities currently are the Ainsworth Wind Facility, the Broken Bow turbines, and the Grande Prairie facility in northern Holt county. Additional turbine facilities occur further east at the edge of the hills, notably in Antelope county.

Many actions have been taken by multiple people in regards to this issue. This chronology indicates some of the more significant and known actions. This compilation is not comprehensive but indicative.

1994

The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) board of directors agrees to provide funds for a pilot wind turbine project south of Ainsworth. Studies for the project were conducted in cooperation with KBR Rural Public Power, according to press reports.

1998

The NPPD board of directors agreed to contribute $652,000 for a pilot wind turbine facility near Ainsworth. Studies for the Ikenburg Hill project were conducted in cooperation with KBR Rural Public Power District at Ainsworth and Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories (March 19; Holt County Independent). The leased property for the project would comprise 8,300 acres.

2005

A newspaper article issued March 2, indicated that "Blades, Birds to Coexist on Wind Farm" at the Ainsworth wind facility, situated in the midst of the Central Flyway of significant species of migratory birds (March 2, 2005; Omaha World-Herald).

The 36-turbine Ainsworth Wind Facility south of Ainsworth as established by the Nebraska Public Power District became operational on September 15. This facility was indicated as being the "state's largest wind generation resource" The project cost approximately $2 million, with money also coming from a Department of Energy grant and from other power districts across Nebraska (March 19, 1998; Holt County Independent).

2007

Midwest Wind Energy LLC, confirmed that a 100-megawatt wind farm is in the works for Holt County. The project would cost $160 million (March 10, 2007; Omaha World-Herald). The company headquarters were in Chicago, IL. Midwest has formed Holt County Wind LLC to oversee the Nebraska wind farm.

Research was completed by people associated with a Cornell University research in 1996-1997, as hired by NPPD. The research project cost was $600,000, according to NPPD staff. Biologists of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission assisted in determining prairie grouse lek locations. Results were issued in February, with an estimate that annual take would be 148 birds per year, as derived from a 4.10 bird take for each of the 36 turbines (December 2, 2007; Wildbirds Broadcasting). NPPD estimated that the annual take would be 2.49 bird fatalities per megawatt. There were 23 bird species documented as fatalities, with 41 species known to occur at the site of the facility. There were eight leks of either the Greater Prairie Chicken or Sharp-tailed Grouse known to be present at the site.

2009

Article issued on how Maxine and Ed Wehling fought the placement of a wind turbine facility on the West Table in western Custer county (April 3; Wildbirds Broadcasting). A MET tower had been installed by BP Energy but based primarily due to the ongoing occurrence of the Whooping Crane at playa wetlands in the area, the project was stopped. The couple documented the wetlands and their scattered distribution.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office assisted Coble and Sons Ranch with a $14,725 grant for five Skystream wind turbines through a Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency program (April 5, 2009; North Platte Bulletin).

During March 2009, a representative of British Petroleum Energy met with the Cherry County Planning Board to discuss wind energy development within the county.

2010

In January the Cherry County Board of Commissioners appointed individuals to evaluate the potential for wind energy development. The chairman of the Zoning Board also met with a representative of BP to discuss regulations.

On March 30, the county commissioners passed a motion to form a Cherry county wind energy committee.

On December 8, Cherry commissioner Jerry Adamson made a motion to appoint six men to the Cherry County Wind Advisory Committee. The motion carried.

On December 14, the Cherry County wind committee met at the county courthouse.

2011

The Cherry County wind committee met on February 8 with Pat Pope of NPPD. Pope provided directions to work with the Southwest Power Pool to facilitate transmission lines within the county that could be used to export electricity generated by turbine facilities.
UNL researchers initiate research with a primary objective to "assess behavioral, population, and/or wildlife community impacts of wind farm siting decisions with the aim of facilitating siting decisions that simultaneously maximize energy potential and ecological resilience," (March 17, 2011; Grant County News). "We want to develop indices to measures the long-term dynamics" related to wind turbine siting, Fontaine said, "and make decisions that are beneficial to everyone. We need to think about long-term implications before decisions are made."

Members of the Cherry County wind committee met on April 22 with three representatives from NPPD to discuss the development of wind turbine projects within the county. Four topics of particular discussion were: 1) indicate the potential for wind energy conversion systems; 2) need for transmission lines; 3) environmental aspects; and, 4) community support (from history of Cherry County Wind).

Non-profit Cherry County Wind LLC established in July. An initial meeting was held August 9. Records indicate that NPPD would be willing to move a proposed transmission line northward so it would be available to transport electricity from any Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) within the county. During August, the group was actively working on "two areas of concern which include transmission lines and landowner association." Efforts to work with the SPP and NPPD were indicated as continuing to be underway in October.

Article issued October 27 indicating details for a proposed wind turbine development as submitted to the FAA by Eurus Energy America Corporation, of San Diego, California, for more than 50 wind turbines proposed for northeast Arthur county. There were two proposed key areas of development, and both of them would encompass about 37,000 acres. Hilltops were indicated places of placement near Baldy Valley and above Baldy Valley. Details were determined from application 201-WTE-65-OE, as available at the Federal Aviation Authority website (October 27, 2011; Grant County News). This is in the big hill country of the southern sandhills.

At a conference in Kearney on November 15-16, George Johnson of Cherry County Wind LLC gave a presentation on facilitating turbine facility development in the sand hills region, indicating that the group was started after the Cherry County commissioners asked several people to "develop policies to become the leading county in Nebraska for wind energy production." Committee goals were indicated as: "Strengthening and broadening the tax base; Being mindful of our wildlife resources; providing high quality employment; maintaining our quality of life" and "growing our economy."

In November the Cherry County Wind Advisory Committee announced that after 20 months of effort on "refining the plan for wind energy development" the Cherry County Wind Energy Association was incorporated and residents were asked to attend an informational meeting (November 16, 2011; Valentine Midland News). The first meeting was November 22 at Valentine and 70 people attended; then the next evening at Mullen with 60-70 people attending. The story also indicated the group had been working with NPPD, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), Lincoln Electric System (LES), and the Southwest Power Pool "advocating for a new transmission line that will cross Cherry county," Matt Coble said. The association were "actively planning" a large wind development project in the county. The deadline for landowners to sign-up was December 15, with a $100 fee to become a member of the association (History of Cherry County Wind). Participants also indicated property where wind turbine facilities could be placed, via a contractual agreement.

2012

The Southwest Power Pool provided construction approval on January 31 for the R-Project, a 220 mile industrial powerline that would extend from the Gerald Gentleman Power station by Sutherland to the Western Area Power Administration 345,000 volt transmission line at the southeast corner of Holt county. The SPP has at least utility members in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska (Including NPPD, OPPD and LES), New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas utility companies.

In response to R-Project approval the following comments were made by George Johnson: "Approval of the r-plan is the important beginning of a unique and tremendous opportunity for economic development in Cherry County and across the State. We all know the wind blows here and that we can harness the energy. The challenge has been finding a way to ship the energy out. It's like Wyoming coal without railroads. With no way to export the energy, it's not worth much. The r-plan is the new railroad, which transmits electricity rather than carrying coal. We're on the verge of a very exciting time." Jerry Adamson said: "This project could possibly have the biggest positive impact on Cherry County as anything we've seen since the railroad system was built," according to a newspaper article.

2013

During January NPPD held six open houses were held on the R-Project. They were the first of three rounds of open houses, which would be followed by a public hearings along the route of the proposed powerline.

Approval given by Planning and Zoning Board of Cherry county to Bluestem Sandhills LLC to place 60 foot meteorological towers in Cherry county, that would be placed on the Pullman ranch (two), Rothleutner Ranch near Kilgore, and Bureau of Educational Lands and Funds property on the southern edge of the county along Highway 83 upon BELF land owned by the public, based upon a decision which involved no public comment. This initial intent for the towers was specifically reduced to fit within the confines of properties where industrial wild facilities could be built on participant properties.

2014

Details indicated on proposed wind turbine project in southeast Cherry county, north of Thedford, (May 15 article on Wildbirds Broadcasting). The proposal would comprise 147 turbines as derived from online Federal Aviation Authority records, as individually reviewed and evaluated. Information on turbine locations was later redacted, i.e., removed from the FAA website.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for a single wind turbine built westerly of Valentine occurred on September 10. A power purchase agreement had been signed with the City of Valentine "in an effort to reduce overall electric rates for city customers" (History of Cherry County Wind). Subsequent details indicated the actual expense of this turbine to the Valentine power gird power purchasers.

On October 10, the Nebraska Power Review Board approves the construction of the R-Project (Omaha World-Herald article). The vote was 5-0 for approval; the article indicates there were six hours of testimony by project opponents.

Eight public hearings held by NPPD during November concerning the 225 mile R-Project industrial powerline, which had a projected cost of $350 million. The Southwest Power Pool would pay 90% of the project cost.

2015

Citizens gathered on Main Street prior to the July 19 public meeting at Valentine.

Final route alignment announce for the 345 kilovolt R-Project industrial powerline in late-January by NPPD. Requests for right-of-way entry were sent to 270 property owners along the proposed route at the time (January 26, 2015; Omaha World-Herald). NPPD expected to start acquiring 200-foot-wide easements in September in order to get construction underway.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the $361 million R-Project powerline be moved out of the Sandhills with NPPD responding that the route is final and it will not be changed (February 19, 2015; Omaha World-Herald).

2016

April 18 application by BSH Kilgore, LLC for a Conditional Use Permit to place 30 wind turbines south of Kilgore.

On April 19, a lawsuit was filed by Brush Creek Ranch LLC against NPPD challenging the right of the power company to access ranch property; hearing on motion held August 12, with the ranch losing the decision, and thus having to allow the utility company to access their property.

Letter to editor by LeRoy and Carolyn Semin about visit by George Johnson to their ranch on April 19th (May 11, 2016; Valentine Midland News). Then a May 18 letter to editor by Matt Coble about wind turbine development, as representing Cherry County Wind LLC in the same newspaper.

Cherry County Planning and Zoning Commission decision on May 23 that approval of a CUP for 30 turbines at a Kilgore wind turbine facility be POSTPONED until determination made on whether the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, an adjacent landowner, had been properly informed.

Special meeting and public hearing held by Cherry county Planning and Zoning on July 19, 2016 regarding CUP 01-16 to allow the construction of a Wind Energy Conversion System development near Kilgore. Motion made to disapprove request was made; motion passed with cited reasons being that there was "no professional engineering stamp for the entire project" and also, because of a "large discrepancy in the decommissioning plan for costs," according to meeting minutes. Prior to the meeting being moved to the Valentine High School. Chairman George Johnson resigned due to an obvious conflict of interest. Opponents of wind turbines gathered to indicate their opposition to turbines, prior to the meeting where they conveyed their position on the public sidewalk of the county office building on north Main Street.

Preserve the Sandhills LLC publicly presented on August 4 a letter and brochure issued asking for public involvement and opposition to wind turbines. This occurred very soon after the group was formed by ranch wives in Cherry and Thomas counties.

Informational booth by Save the Sandhills and Preserve the Sandhills members at the Cherry county fair on Aug 12.

NPPD issues a statement from an agency spokes-person that a power transmission line (T Line) will not be built through Grant county, according to August 15 report by KNOP news of North Platte.

In August, a large Preserve the Sandhills banner prominently placed by Mike Young in the front window of Young's Western Wear on Main Street, Valentine. A member of Cherry County Wind states that placement of the sign would mean the loss of more than 50 customers for the business.

Informational meeting on wind energy development held at the Winter Building at Hyannis on August 15; a response to this meeting was issued as District 43 news by senator Al Davis on August 24 in regional newspapers.

Public letter issued August 22 by Cherry County Wind LLC promoting turbine development. Several letters to the editor on this topic were subsequently published in regional newspapers.

A flyer with the claim "A Brighter Future is on Our Horizon" was sent by area residents by Cherry County Wind LLC via postal mail, as received on September 29 at a Valentine mail box.

Franz Muller, Cody, letter to the editor published October 5 in the Valentine newspaper questioning the presentation on the "Comment Show" program of KVSH due to undisclosed conflict of interest due to a "bias" in commenters on September 16. Also indicated was that state senator Ken Schlitz of Ogallala provided promotional facts and figures supportive of wind turbine development. KVSH radio announced Mike Burge is secretary for Cherry County Wind LLC.

Public hearing held by Cherry county commissioners on October 11 on proposed changes to zoning regulations.

The October 26 hearing by the county commissioners on the BSH Kilgore POSTPONED due to failure to provide proper notification of meeting, as required by regulations; new date scheduled for November 16.

Forum on renewable energy sponsored by Center for Rural Affairs on October 27 at the Peppermill restaurant, at Valentine.

Grande Prairie wind turbine facility in Holt county, owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, became operational during October, with 200 turbines northeast of O'Neill, Nebr. Many of the turbines were placed within an extensive area with center-pivots that water cropland.

Soup supper and fund-raising auction held November 15 by Preserve the Sandhills at the Cowpoke in Thedford.

Letter to editor by Sheldon Otto in the November 30 O'Neill newspaper states: "Warren Buffet said it and the president of Berkshire Hathaway Energy acknowledged it at a zoning meeting. 'There would be no wind turbines if it weren't for the tax incentives.'"

Public hearing by Cherry county commissioners on CUP 01-16 held December 7, at the Valentine High School, with more than 100 people present; the hearing had been POSTPONED twice due to an improper notification notice; several opponents to wind turbines gathered at the court house prior to the meeting, according to comments heard at the hearing.

On December 19 the application for CUP 01-16 (Kilgore project) was denied by Cherry County commissioners Mark Adamson and Tanya Storer; commissioner Van Winkle did not attend. A prominent problem was the newspaper-reported revision in the number of turbines which might be constructed at the project site - they would be taller but fewer in number.

On December 27 the Cherry county commissioners enacted a six-month suspension was enacted on wind turbines CUP applications within the county; with Planning and Zoning tasked to prepare a report on three items: 1) health effects, 2) fire suppression, and 3) property values.

2017

Testimony given at Zoning Board meeting on January 3 given by Keith and Vicki May about the extent of noise at their residence 1.3 miles from the nearest turbine of the Grande Prairie wind facility north of O'Neill, which extends across a reported 50,000 acres.

Construction was expected to have been started on the R-Project in January, according to NPPD's initial expectations.

Public hearing held March 1 on Legislative Bill 504 in the state capitol at Lincoln by the Natural Resources Committee, of the Nebraska legislature. Numerous sandhill residents attended and presented testimony. During the highway trip back to the heart of the sandhills. It was a situation where "boots versus suits" as indicative of visual comparison of garb between power industry representatives and ranch county citizens that presented testimony at the hearing.

Advertisement by Preserve the Sandhills printed on March 22nd advocating that turbines be banned in the sandhills, and stating a "call to action" (Valentine Midlands News).

Bird surveys done by J.E. Ducey on April 12 and May 10 along the corridor of the proposed R-Project powerline with detailed reports issued on Wildbirds Broadcasting blog, notably for locales in southern Holt county. Effort funded by Preserve the Sandhills LLC.

Article issued by J.E. Ducey regarding how a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study on the behavior of Greater Prairie-Chicken at the Ainsworth Wind Turbine Facility was found to be deficient (April 24, Wildbirds Broadcasting blog).

At the May 2 meeting of the Zoning Board, whiteboard list of items of concern/consideration was presented at the monthly meeting by a member of the board; comments given by Ducey on deficient UNL study on the effects of wind turbines on Greater Prairie-Chicken.

Document dated May 10 submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for a "nationwide permit" that would allow the minimal fill of wetlands during construction of the r-project. The claim was made that less than 0.50 acres of Waters of the United States would be filled.

A draft environmental impact statement for the r-project issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May. A draft habitat conservation plan became available at the same time.

Initial details presented on June 6 on Planning Commission Review of Cherry County Commissioner request for the group to address specific items of concern as requested by commissioners.

Letter dated July 10 submitted by Carolyn Semin asking the Cherry county Zoning Board for clarification on items concerning wind turbines as discussed at their most recent meeting.

At July 21 meeting of the Zoning board, Jim Ducey commented on obvious violations of Open Meetings Act, notably not allowing public comment, not providing a copy of distributed material to the public, and concerns about not having a sign-in sheet, which is a courtesy, not a legal requirement; attendee Ducey indicated that a civil suit could be subsequently filed.

On July 17 Robert Harms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not allowed to attend a private meeting at Thedford because of complaints made by NPPD. Meeting occurred anyway. NPPD representatives were asked to leave and they eventually left after four requests. People subsequently arriving saw pictures being taken of cars and their license plates.

A July 25 letter to editor by Dr. Brent Steffen in Kearney Hub and other regional newspapers concerning "government by the people" in regards to July 17 meeting action and the R-Project.

On August 2, senator Dan Hughes (Nebraska Legislature District 44) comments supportive of R-Project indicating it was requested by Southwest Power Pool, published in the McCook newspaper.

On August 18, Dr. Brent L. Steffen issued additional comments in the McCook newspaper about how Sen. Hughes is misinformed on the R-Project.

A multipage document titled "Sandhills Challenges, Sandhills Solutions" received via postal mail on August 22 as sent by Cherry County Wind LLC.

Meeting scheduled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the month at Thedford was summarily POSTPONED.

Nebraska senator Tom Brewer (district 43) met with representatives of NPPD and OPPD on August 23. At meeting, NPPD indicated they had 71% of the landowner easements needed to construct the r-project; also that the company did not care if wind turbines were ever built because of the availability of the r-project transmission line.

Public hearing on LR 125 held at Lincoln on September 22 (news accounts in Lincoln and Omaha newspapers).

Letter to editor by Brent Steffen about the need for a world-class attraction in the sandhills, and sarcastically referring to wind turbines (September 23, 2017; Kearney Hub).

October 6 version of weekly comment column issued in different newspaper by senator Tom Brewer stating that wind energy is not "Nebraska Nice" and which included the verbiage that "wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars and isn't green by any definition of the term."

October 7 letter to editor by Jim Foral in Lincoln newspaper on how sand hill residents are right to fight the r-project.
On October 11 numerous landowners met at the Thedford fairgrounds despite previously scheduled public hearing on the R-Project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service being POSTPONED until October 25.

An October 17, letter to editor in North Platte newspaper by Dr. Steffen on how "R-Project exemplifies overreach".

On October 19 Preserve the Sandhills and Save the Sandhills issued a ten page educational insert in regional publications.

During late October an updated abstract/memorandum of agreement between Cherry County Wind LLC and involved property owners were filed as legal documents in the county deeds office. The term of the agreement was indicated as forty years.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing on October 25 at Thedford in regard to the R-Project, with about one hundred people present with testimony restricted to three minutes and the meeting having been ended after two hours. An additional hearing was held at Burwell.

Senator Tom Brewer wrote weekly update column dated October 27, after attending the FWS hearing at Thedford on the r-project.
Thomas Kent, chief operating officer of NPPD, claimed Steffen comments as previously published were not accurate in a letter to the editor as issued October 28 (North Platte Telegraph).

Capitol view column by J.L. Schmidt and Paul Fell political satire cartoon on the R-Project issued November 1 in regional newspapers.

Close of public comment period on November 7 for draft EIS regarding the R-Project, after an extended comment period because of requests by concerned residents, citizens and representatives.

On November 7 the Planning and Zoning Commission approved changes to the zoning regulations regarding setback distance, noise levels and turbine blade flicker with a vote of 6-2. Recommendations submitted to county commissioners.

Private meeting held November 18 at Valentine to discuss possible actions to oppose wind turbines in the county.

Presentation given at Cherry county commissioner meeting on November 28 meeting on a peer-reviewed report on "infrasound from wind turbines" as discussed by Ryan T. Callahan.

Privately issued on December 1 was a revised list of land-owners that have a memorandum of agreement to allow wind turbine development on their property, as determined by county public records.

During the month, a revised indication of wind turbine placement near Kilgore became available online as associated with the Federal Aviation Authority.

County commissioner requested zoning board report on three topics presented by Albert Ericksen to the county commissioners on December 12.

2018

Letter to editor on January 10 by Bob Stetter conveying the need for a "SOS" Save Our Sandhills action (Valentine Midland News).

Full-page advertisement by Preserve the Sandhills urging that people attend the public hearing on proposed changes in the zoning regulations; published in the regional Pioneer Advertiser et al.

Private meeting held January 24 to discuss actions to ban turbines within Cherry county, with effort initiated to repeal and replace sections of the zoning regulations.

Initial digital map of Cherry County Wind investor stake-holders provided on January 27, with additional key details indicated. Investor lands, et al., derived from official county records and other sources. Map subsequently revised in March.

Tony Baker, the legislative aide for Senator Tom Brewer stated during a radio interview on January 30 that LB 1054 might help ensure that "wind turbine developers will be better neighbors." Than subsequently he stated "put wind turbines away from people" as personally heard on Twister radio in the morning.

Advertisement in January 31 issue indicating numerous people - including area residents and others - opposed to development of wind turbine facilities within the sandhills region (Valentine Midland News).

Public hearing held on legislative bill 1054 at the Nebraska Legislature at Lincoln on February 1. The legislation would remove wind energy developments from the definition as a privately developed renewable energy facility and require that the public be allowed to comment at hearings of the Nebraska Power Review Board. The bill effort failed.

Commissioners hearing held February 7 at Valentine High School regarding changes proposed for the Cherry county zoning regulations, regarding most essentially setback distances, noise levels and turbine flicker. At least 150 people, as well as county officials were present at the Valentine High School. Testimony was presented by 44 individuals, with 30 of them in favor of the proposed changes as submitted by the Planning and Zoning Board. There were prominent comments made by both groups that were diametrically different, using disparate sources. The decision was 2-1 against acceptance of the recommendations (only Tonya Storer voted against the motion to reject the recommendations), since there was no second for the motion, so no group vote actually occurred.

Application submitted to interim zoning administrator during mid-afternoon on February 8 to the interim county zoning administrator requesting that most of the section 613 regulations be repealed, and then replaced with language that would prohibit the placement of commercial/industrial wind energy conversion systems; also to limit agricultural district towers (windmills, wind chargers, or wind turbine) to less than 80 feet. The request included more than 300 signatures of land-owners within Cherry county. The agenda item was not addressed at the March meeting since the meeting was cancelled due to weather. It was then not considered at the May meeting, being pushed back to the next regularly scheduled meeting.

On February 22, Gary Folk published a letter to the editor in the Grant County News indicating opposition to industrial wind turbines and that any wind energy development should be associated with smaller units suited to a ranch (also subsequently issued in the Valentine, North Platte and Omaha newspapers). Steve Moreland in his Soapweed Soliloquy column expressed that industrial wind turbines should not be built in the Sandhills.

Willard Hollopeter conveyed an opposition to industrial wind turbines and high-voltage powerlines during his morning Heritage Trail commentary on February 27, as spoken on KVSH radio, Valentine.

Request for a public referendum vote on wind turbines presented February 27 by Cleve Trimble to the county commissioners. The commissioners took no action (commissioner meeting minutes; article in the Grant County News).

Letter to editor on February 28 by Janet Parkhurst on the need for compromise on the wind turbine issue. Imposition of a limit of 300 words or less on any subsequent letters to the editor on this issue ().

The first installment of a four-part missive on wind turbines, regulations, and county official involvement was issued online by Carolyn Semin, a west Kilgore resident, on April 19th.

Public forum for candidates for Cherry county commissioner held at Valentine, on April 19th. Candidates James B. Ward and Michael C. Young both specifically indicated their opposition to having wind turbines built within the county. Also present were candidates Harold Osgood and Tanya Storer (article subsequently issued in the Grant County News).

Carolyn Semin presented details of her financial research findings at the April 24 county commissioner meeting. More than 60 residents were present. She indicated that county funds were spent to promote wind energy and industrial powerline development in Cherry county, totaling $13,188.04, notably in 2011. There were there subsequent speakers conveying their opinions and perspectives during the public comment period; most of them were opposed to industrial wind turbines and powerlines. A county resident planned to ask state officials to require an audit. Radio reporter Craig Andresen, commissioner Tanya Storer and Carolyn Semin spoke on this topic on the Twister radio stations the next morning, during the Free Speech Zone program.

During the public comment period at the August 8 meeting of the Cherry County commissioners, Carolyn Semin asked when the commissioners would address the use of county funds. According to rules of order, the motion tabled at the previous commissioner meeting should have been addressed. Jim Ducey asked than an independent audit be conducted to get a completely accurate indication of any and all amounts paid by the county in association with facilitating development of industrial wind turbines.

Evaluation of Known Memoranda of Agreement for Wind Turbine Facilities, Cherry County

Prepared by James E. Ducey, Valentine, initially in May 8, 2016; revised and updated November-December, 2017. Version 2.1. This is a draft document and subject to change as it is a paradox to determine the actuality of the records, despite a reliance on official government records since expressed details by the wind turbine proponents do not match the official county records.

This is an evaluation of land owners who have knowingly signed an agreement with Cherry County Wind LLC to allow development of wind turbine facilities on their property. The agreements officially filed within a Cherry county office would allow the development of wind turbines and have been reestablished by the controlling entity, Bluestem Sandhills LLC.

Details were derived from documents in Book 50 and Book 52 of Miscellaneous Agreements, kept in the Cherry county deed office. For those entities that had agreements filed in 2015, an “Amended and Restated Abstract/Memorandum of Agreement” was filed in late October, 2017.

The overall acreage for these entities is a sum of 352,010+ acres for the known agreements filed and available for public review at the county deed records office. There are fewer than fifty individual parties indicated by these documents.

It should be noted that for a couple of the ranch properties, the parcels indicated by the agreement are less than the overall extent of acreage indicated by the county GIS records, as available online in late November. In one instance, a parcel properties indicated with the agreement differs actual extent of acreage as denoted in county assessor records. There is one instance where the acreage parcels indicated in 2015 differ from those indicated in 2017 in the amended agreement. Note the examples where the enrolled acreage is less than 640 acres. Also indicated in this comparison is the enrollment of property owners that have an indicated address outside of Nebraska, obviously showing the involvement of absentee landowners.

Any consideration of these details is limited by the lack of legal records. It is obvious from comments presented in recent months during hearings in Cherry county meetings, that additional parties are associated with Cherry County Wind, LLC. There is an example to consider as associated with the Adamson family and their corporate entities.

It needs to be indicated that it is nearly impossible to derive any sort of accurate figure. There are sources
of errors which prevent an accurate tally. While reconsidering records associated with publicly-owned Board of Educational Lands and Funds, there were errors. Some of the parcels listed in the agreement were not indicated in the tally of parcels given in a legal document filed in December 2015. Another parcel is not indicated as a BELF parcel in the online county GIS details, though a legally filed agreement indicates it as such. Another parcel is shown by two versions of plat maps as being privately owned, though the section is listed as being owned by the BELF, according to documentation filed as associated with Cherry County Wind, LLC.

It also needs to be realized that changes in this information may occur, based upon details given with any amended and restated details of agreement as filed near the end of October, 2017. These documents have not been reviewed.

The reality is that it is nearly impossible to actually determine an accurate figure for land ownership. There are too many errors associated with the sources used to evaluate the details. This is problematic, as errors occur in the online record-base as provided by Cherry county, as well as the documents filed in the county courthouse. The base records may be accurate, but it would require an extensive evaluation to be completely accurate. Therefore this evaluation is an approximation.

Some of the areas indicated may not be suitable for development of a turbine facility. Based upon their small extent and configuration the property lines or distance from an occupied dwelling may not comply with zoning regulations. This can be determined further once the changes to the Cherry county zoning regulations are approved by the county commissioners.

There has to be other land owners involved with Cherry County Wind LLC, based upon the claims of the business entity. All of the following locales are within Cherry county.

Abbott Cattle Company Gordon (ranch in western Cherry county) 48,676 acres1 ( B
Taylor G. and Kerri Adamson Bluejacket, OK 1240 ( B
Todd M. Adamson Cody 2706 ( A
Jeanne K. Ang and Wayne R. Wright Spring Grove, IL 1431 ( C
William D. Barner and Donalee A. Berner Mullen (ranch in Cherry county) 1104 ( C
Board of Educational Lands and Funds Lincoln (prominent locale along Highway 83 in southern Cherry County, north of Thedford) 26,491 ( C
Bow & Arrow, LLC Auburn, AL 20,224 ( C
Broken Box Company (Rex Adamson) Cody 37,002 ( B
Glen Coble and Sons, Inc. (Matt G. Coble) Mullen 19,922 ( A
Don Cox Ranch Company Mullen 6167 ( B
Donald B. and Deborah S. Cox Mullen 640 ( B
Curtis Ranch, Inc. (Marie Wiese) Whitman (ranch west of the headwaters of the North Loup River) 6120 ( B
Donald D. and Jolene M. Grunhaupt Crookston 760 ( B
Reed Hamilton Ranch, Inc. (David W. Hamilton) Thedford 5733 ( B
Henderson Land and Livestock Company (Michael Henderson) Whitman (ranch to north in Cherry county) 11,372 ( B
Casey L. Henderson Hyannis (parcel in Cherry county) 640 ( B
Elmus M. and Tonya J. Henderson Whitman 7142 ( A
Larry and Carolynn T. Henderson Whitman 15,698 ( B
Mark E. Johnson Kilgore 447 ( C
Mark and Janelle Johnson Kilgore 615 2 ( C
Krajeski and Johnson, Inc. (John Johnson) Cody 2598 ( B
Krajeski and Johnson, Inc. Cody 2440 ( B
Robert B. Lord; Robert B. and Donna Mae Lord Lamar, CO 9001 ( C
Robert B. Lord, Wendy Fritzler and Phy Lord Lamar, CO 2454 ( C
Dean R. and Jennifer A. Marsh Kearney 1259 ( C
Robert J. Marsh; Robert J. and Peggy L. Marsh Mullen 1393 ( C
Wade W. Marsh and Kelly M. Marsh Minden 320 ( C
Lyn J. (DeNaeyer) Messersmith Alliance 8080 ( A
Matthew A. Miles and Carmen V. Miles Brownlee 1465 ( B
North LLC (Marian L. Nutter) Thedford 4683 ( C
Daniel W. and Shirley E. Osborn Mullen (ranch in Cherry county) 2836 ( C
Michael Don Peterson and Tammy J. Peterson Kilgore 399 ( C
Ivan R. and Phyllis M. Phillips Whitman 1829 ( B
Lyle D. and Twila F. Phillips Mullen 1888 ( C
John N. and Patsy L. Phipps Whitman 1680 ( B
Duane R. and Carolyn J. Porath Valentine 631 ( A
Powderhorn Ranch, Inc. (William W. Fischer) Nenzel 12,281 ( A
Ridenour Land and Cattle, Ltd. (Larry Ridenour) Mullen 7493 ( C
Rocking J Taylor Company (Taylor Adamson) Cody 3712 ( C
Rocking J Todd Company (Todd Adamson) Cody 16,140 ( B
S.K.K.B. Carpenter Ranch, LLC (Larry Ridenour) Mullen 5560 ( C
Fink-Sheer Inc. (Kevin Sheer) Elsmere 2989 ( C
Nancy and Robert Sinnett Valentine 2684 ( C
South LLC (Marian L. Nutter) Thedford 2863 ( B
Sunny Slope Ranch, Inc. (Adam Fischer) Valentine 9730 ( B
Three Bar Cattle Company (John W. Ravenscroft, a former county commissioner) Nenzel 26,694 ( C
James L. and Michalene R. Van Winkle (he has been a county commissioner for years with his tenure ending December, 2018) Wood Lake 657 ( A
Yeager Ranch Land, Inc. (Rex Adamson) Cody 4121 ( B

( 1 Acreage totals have been rounded to the nearest whole number
( A – total given with document
( B – summation of parcel acres given with document
( C – parcel acreage as derived from county GIS and other assessor records
( 2 Acreage total 615 with 2015 agreement and 447 acres in 2017 amended document

Known investors in Cherry County Wind LLC


March 2018 image courtesy of Tyler Rath, who developed the may based upon details indicated by this report.

It should be noted that this summary information does not conform to the acreage and membership details indicated by Cherry County Wind LLC, with additional unknown details that would be indicative.

21 May 2018

Special Recognition Given to Unique Nebraska Conservationist

Two events occurred during mid-May to recognize the many efforts by Ione Werthman a farm girl raised near Coleridge, Nebr. Her educational focus and concerns for the natural features would after years of interest and concern become a unique and special legacy associated with getting things done to protect natural resources in Nebraska.

A first recognition event occurred Thursday, May 17th at Heron Haven Wetland in west Omaha at the nature center which Ione was instrumental in working with the local NRD to establish a place where natural values continue on a daily basis at a prominent natural area within a developed urban environment filled with streets and buildings.

A proclamation issued by the Omaha City Council indicated it was “Ione Werthman Day.” A key aspect was that the city street on the north side of the haven was officially redesignated as “Ione Werthman Drive.”

More than 20 people were at the haven nature center event, according to a member of the Werthman family in attendance. People present included Sam Bennett, the current president of the Friends of Heron Haven group and who was instrumental in the recognition effort, Mark Brohman the director of the Nebraska Environmental Trust who has always been supportive of funding requests to promote conservation efforts for a bit of an urban wetland filled with natural life, and other people with an interest and luminaries, including Hal Daub.

Ione Werthman won awards from the Nebraska Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society for her efforts, according to the proclamation signed by each member of the Omaha city council. This indicated item conveys a basic tenant given for the distinctive honoree: “Whereas, Ione Werthman has been referred to as a fierce protector of wildlife and one of Nebraska’s iconic conservationists” ...

It is very obvious that even years after her active efforts that some key people recognized a legacy and undertook successful efforts to recognize a personal legacy.

Valentine Recognition

During a drizzly, cool afternoon when incessant rain fell upon Valentine environs on Saturday the 19th, a fine group of people gathered to convey how so many did so many essential actions that resulted in the establishment of the Niobrara National Scenic River. The appreciation meeting was sponsored by the National Park Service.

There were many “Great Americans” recognized. Obviously Ione Werthamn and her husband Al were actively involved once efforts to conserve the free-flowing Niobrara River became an issue of a broad public concern.

Ione and Al’s son Jerry spoke first, and was “thankful for what my mom and dad did” while he shared some particular highlights of their legacy. Ione followed her husband as a leader of the Audubon Society of Omaha, then Nebraska Audubon Council and then to a national level as a member of the board of directors for National Audubon Society. She traveled to Washington D.C. three times to promote the designation of a significant portion of the Niobrara as a scenic river.

Also present was the couple’s daughter Jeanne.

In subsequent years, she was the key force behind the founding of Heron Haven, protecting a relic wetland from development and then directing its establishment as a distinct nature area with a nature center in a former bar.

An especially prominent event at the celebration was the unveiling of a framed document recognizing Ione’s involvement in getting the scenic river established. The wall hanging was loaned to the National Park Service for display at the Niobrara Scenic River visitor center.

Werthman Family at the recognition event at Valentine.

Many names were mentioned when Bruce Kennedy, member of Friends of the Niobrara River, spoke. He mentioned that the 1970s were “a dark period of those who loved rivers” in Nebraska. There were plans to place dams on the Platte, Calamus and Niobrara rivers. “Leadership emerged,” he said. “It was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen.”

Ione Werthman was a member of the friends group since its beginning, and continues to be listed as a member, despite her death in 2016.

The extent of people that cared increased when Mel Thorton dramatically indicated his recollections. People individually recognized included Ron Klataska associated with the National Audubon Society (Kennedy recalled his horseback ride along the river valley to promote the scenic river; he initially bought the property that would eventually become the Fred Thomas WMA at the east end of the scenic river; and as a leader of the Audubon of Kansas was instrumental in establishing the Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary along the Niobrara River), Fred Thomas an environmental reporter for the Omaha World-Herald that was an essential asset as he wrote of news and activities and continually contributed through reporting and personal interest until his death in 1999 with the Fred Thomas WMA officially dedicated in October 1999, Laura and Merle Curry, Franklin and Lillie Egelhoff, Loren Wilson who was one of the first outfitters along the river, Ernest Rousek and Tim Knott (he accompanied Ione to Washingto D.C. to speak to legislators about the need for a scenic river) of Audubon, as well as Wes Sandall an area rancher.

“These are our great Americans,” said Bruce Kennedy.

Mel Thorton talked about the effort to split an acre of land near Rocky Ford into 4840 square yard parcels that were sold for $25 each so that any effort to build a dam would have to individually deal with each owner. He explained that in 2008 the Niobrara River was listed as one of the ten most threatened river in the nation due to water being taken for irrigation purposes. Soon, the river was declared to be fully appropriated, impeding any further extractions.

Having an opportunity to personally comment, it was simply wonderful to remember an activist of past times. Ione Werthman was a compatriot. We were a team. We were goal oriented. If someone told us No, that was simply the wrong answer because there are times when that single word was a call to further action and “digging in the heels” to ensure conservation of something essential and valuable. Were we always successful? Of course not but we were still very effective. Ione and I learned as we collaborated together on activities mostly done in association with the Audubon society.

We would not let some bureaucrat impose their view that a development that would destroy uniquely valuable natural values because of the perceived need for something like a dam to provide water to irrigate corn fields. Or in later years to allow a natural spring book to get put into a culvert because engineers did not put in the time to achieve what had already been agreed to. The bureaucrats may have changed their mind, but an adamant no meant a redesign that meant there would be no culvert for the brook at Spring Lake Park, a City of Omaha project that would eventually win an environmental award for its design and implementation.

When attending a recognition dinner for having received environmentalist of the year award from Woodmen (for getting conservation management at a small public land parcel at Levi Carter Park), I made sure to invite Ione and insisted that she speak and share some of her recollections. She was the one that deserved the award. It was grand that she could share the spotlight and be publicly acknowledged.

I still remember visiting Ione in her room at the assisted living facility just a short distance from where she knew my family as we were active participants in the local church community.

Ione was my friend and I am pleased to have her been her ally and to have been helped her to get an oprational windmill from a Cherry county ranch at get it erected at Heron Haven. This effort failed, probably because she could be less involved as age was having its affect.
Perhaps, as an option, a Sandhills windmill should be placed at Rocky Ford if/when it becomes another unique river asset that the public can appreciate and treasure now and for future generations.

Ione Werthman was certainly a Great American. Her legacy continues to be known by activists including those involved in the conservation movement for so many past years, while new generations very much appreciate the Niobrara National Scenic River and Heron Haven.

There are some very prominent conservation concerns along the Niobrara River and the Sand Hills. It is heartening that several ranch women have stepped to the plate and are essential in efforts to protect the sandhills from industrial wind turbine facilities and industrial powerlines. Ione would certainly be pleased about this...

12 May 2018

Wildbirds Observed During April at Valentine, NE

It was another distinctive month for wildbirds present Valentine, Cherry County. A big difference for sightings during April this year was providing bird seed. It was so much easier to make observations when birds would be readily visible outside the window or front door rather than going in search of them. Feed is refreshed daily, and on occasion, more than once per day since the birds can be very hungry.


This gobbler was looking in the north window in early morning on April 28th, perhaps to see if the resident birder was awake and going to spread more seed for his companion turkeys to eat?

The Valentine Mill Pond was a prime place for waterfowl, and the results are indicative. Two species added to the overall regional tally from this locale were the Redhead and Bufflehead. There were also larger numbers of the Northern Shoveler (with the best occurrence in a flock number along Minnechaduza Creek, west of Highway 83), Gadwall and Green-winged Teal. Several sorts of waterfowl appreciate the cattail wetlands at the west end of the Valentine Mill Pond, just east of Highway 83. The Snow Goose was a flyover species, as was the Sandhill Crane, with the majority observed on a single day when numerous flocks were moving northward, with kettling in a spectacular manner over the pine-covered hills at the north edge of the city. Wild Turkey liked the free food and once the flock arrived as winter waned, they were daily visitors. There was no need for a morning alarm from a clock because the gobbling sufficed to indicate it was early morning.

Missed during the month was the Franklin's Gull. This was a result of timing, as probably my time of being observant outdoors was not when flocks of this species would have been transient over the locality, as they have been seen in the past. Swallows seemed to have a later arrival this year as none were observed locally during the month.

There were lots of usual observations for the many species that regularly occur or are residential. Chimney Swift were once again present along Main Street at the end of the month. Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker are certainly local residents but they are not seen on a regular basis. Once the Icterids arrived, they became very common at the bird seed, with many Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Grackle present daily. Their antics can be quite amusing, especially when a couple of the black birds have a dispute over a bit of seed when a few feet away there are seeds where there are no birds foraging. A male Northern Cardinal may not occur at the bird seed buffet on a daily basis, but it also needs to be noted that it may not be heard singing every day at the tree line just to the west. At least the small sparrows had a chance to feed, and often more seed was not put out to facilitate their feeding.

Harris's Sparrow were more prominent this spring. Larger numbers of the Dark-eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrow were counted because they were daily visitors to the bird seed buffet. The Lazuli Bunting was also seen when it foraged for a time one day at this food source.

The blizzard of April 13-14 had an impact on birds. One nest box occupied by Eastern Bluebird ended up filled to the entrance and then a crust of snow. The nest had contained five eggs, according to a local observer. The birds had not returned by the end of the month. South of the Heart City, carcasses of Sandhill Crane were found. There were other reports of crane mortality locally but the wildlife officer in the area of the Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to an inquiry for further details.

White-tailed Deer were also appreciative of having a supplemental food source, often feeding four feet outside the front door. The corn-oats-barley mix disappeared in entirety each time they arrived, as seven deer are great consumers.

What is becoming more useful is that after years of ongoing observations, particulars associated with dates of occurrence can be compared, which is why all calendar dates are converted to julian date, since calendar dates cannot be grouped in a common fashion by a database query. A standard Julian date indication is the same for a particular date in any year.

Wildbirds Observed During April at Valentine
Proper Name     Julian Date > 93 94 100 101 102 103 105 107 109 110 112 120
Canada Goose -- 12 7 80 9 -- 22 -- -- 12 14 8
Wood Duck -- -- 3 -- -- 2 4 -- -- -- 10 --
Blue-winged Teal -- -- -- -- -- -- 8 -- -- 4 16 --
Northern Shoveler -- -- -- 15 -- -- 2 -- -- -- 32 --
Gadwall -- -- -- -- 8 -- 4 -- -- 7 4 --
American Wigeon -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 3 --
Mallard -- 2 2 -- 6 -- -- -- -- 2 2 --
Green-winged Teal -- -- 18 -- -- -- 6 -- -- 1 -- --
Redhead -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- 1 -- --
Lesser Scaup -- -- -- 10 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Bufflehead -- 3 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Wild Turkey 1 8 7 18 9 1 2 11 12 -- 6 13
Great Blue Heron -- 1 1 -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- 2
Double-crested Cormorant -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- --
Turkey Vulture 1 17 28 75 -- -- -- 13 -- 12 8 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk -- -- 1 -- -- 1 1 1 -- -- -- --
Bald Eagle -- -- -- 1 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Red-tailed Hawk -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- --
American Coot -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 --
Sandhill Crane -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1400 65 -- -- --
Killdeer 1 1 1 -- -- -- 1 1 -- -- 1 2
Greater Yellowlegs -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- --
American Herring Gull -- -- 4 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Rock Dove -- -- -- -- 16 -- -- -- -- -- -- 1
Eurasian Collared Dove 4 -- 7 -- 3 8 5 -- -- 4 7 9
Mourning Dove 2 2 4 3 3 3 5 -- -- 4 3 3
Great Horned Owl -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- --
Chimney Swift -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 3
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 1 -- 1 -- 1 1 -- -- 1 --
Red-bellied Woodpecker -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 --
Downy Woodpecker 1 -- 1 -- -- 1 3 -- -- -- 1 1
Hairy Woodpecker -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- --
Northern Flicker -- 1 1 -- -- 1 1 -- -- 1 2 --
Eastern Phoebe -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 4 --
Blue Jay -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 -- -- -- -- 3
American Crow -- 2 2 -- 2 -- 2 -- -- 1 2 --
Black-capped Chickadee 3 -- 3 -- -- -- 3 -- -- -- 6 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1 -- 1 -- 1 -- 1 -- -- -- 1 --
White-breasted Nuthatch 2 -- 4 -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- 3 2
Brown Thrasher -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1
Common Starling -- -- 3 -- 6 -- -- -- -- -- -- 3
Eastern Bluebird -- 2 4 -- -- 2 3 -- -- -- 3 --
American Robin -- 5 23 -- 10 125 4 -- -- 6 44 21
House Sparrow -- -- 18 -- -- -- 27 -- -- -- 15 10
House Finch 2 -- 6 -- 4 -- 6 -- -- -- 13 8
American Goldfinch -- -- 3 -- -- -- 20 -- -- -- 5 11
Pine Siskin -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- -- -- --
Yellow-headed Blackbird -- -- -- -- -- 2 2 -- -- -- -- --
Western Meadowlark -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- -- -- 1 --
Red-winged Blackbird 45 -- 55 -- 35 85 100 -- -- 105 36 --
Brown-headed Cowbird -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 8 8
Common Grackle 2 -- 30 -- -- 4 29 -- -- -- 36 12
Song Sparrow -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- 2 2 --
Lincoln's Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- 2 --
Harris's Sparrow 1 -- -- -- 1 1 2 -- -- -- 1 --
Dark-eyed Junco 12 14 22 10 6 50 40 27 -- 8 8 --
Savannah Sparrow 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 4 -- --
American Tree Sparrow 24 11 16 6 4 7 3 4 4 2 2 --
Chipping Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 3 10
Field Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- --
Clay-colored Sparrow -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1
Northern Cardinal -- -- 2 -- -- 2 2 -- -- -- 3 1
Lazuli Bunting -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 1

The 63 species seen in 2018 compares to 63 in 2017 and 53 during the month in 2016. The overall tally for the three years combined is 80 species. Eventual plans are to prepare individual accounts for the more than 120 species observed in the immediate vicinity of Valentine and that would include detailed comparisons of numbers and dates of occurrence.

10 May 2018

Wildbirds Die Due to Collisions With Spinning Blades of Wind Turbines


Wildbirds Die Due to Collisions With Spinning Blades of Industrial Wind Turbines

Wind Turbine Facilities Destroy Distinct Habitat Essential for Wildbirds

Industrial wind turbines should not be built in Cherry County, a land internationally recognized as a haven for hundreds of species of appreciated and vital wildbirds and many other sorts of fauna and flora, as based upon decades of scientific records and efforts of so many appreciative people

Elect a county commissioner candidate that will say no to industrial wind turbines in Cherry County and prevent the destruction of habitats where wildbirds thrive

My vote will be for two leaders, Michael C. Young and James B. Ward who have publicly stated they would just say NO to industrial wind turbines

Paid for by James E. Ducey, Valentine; a birder that has traveled throughout the Great American Sand Hills since 1982 to learn about wildbirds, and which has resulted in an appreciation of the many important natural resources in the regions. These assets need to be recognized now so they can be present for future generations.

May 9, 2018. [Wildbirds die due to collisions with spinning blades of wind turbines.] Valentine Midland News 46(45): 11. A paid advertisement. The cost was $108.


09 May 2018

Application for Replacement of a US Cellular Communications Tower

Comments submitted to Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board by James E. Ducey; May 1, 2018. A copy of these comments was provided to each member of the board.

A public hearing cannot be held on this Conditional Use Permit 002/18 request to replace a communications tower north of Valentine because the application is not complete. There was not a suitable public notice as a single sentence within an ongoing paragraph on the public notice of the local newspaper is not sufficient, especially in comparison to the more prominent public notice issued for a public hearing at the county commissioner meeting.

The application associated with CUP 002/18 should not even be considered, and especially not approved, because it is deplorably inadequate. It does not include many items as required by Cherry County Zoning regulations, dating to 2008. The following refer to a specific item(s) as required for any CUP proposed and as applied for by the CUP application for this site.


This is "exhibit two" which was submitted to show the locations of residential dwellings. This aerial photo depicts a locality and does not indicate a single dwelling.

Application item Number 4, item g: “The locations of residential dwellings and other non-agricultural land uses within four miles of the property to be affected by the proposed Conditional Use.”

The application refers to Diagram 2. This large-scale aerial photograph diagram does not have any of the detail necessary to determine any of the many residences within four miles of the site that will be affected by the proposed conditional use. Also, obviously, any other land uses are not indicated, including wildlife, park areas and natural spaces owned by the citizens of Valentine.

Also missing from the CUP applicant and application material provided to the zoning administrator are these items as specifically referred to in the Cherry County zoning regulations.

Section 612.01 Intent

“Telecommunication facilities, towers and antennas in the County, to protect residential areas and land uses from potential adverse impact due to the installation of towers and antennas through special design, siting, and camouflaging, to promote and encourage shared use/collocation of towers and other antenna support structures rather than the construction of additional single use towers, to avoid potential damage to property caused by towers, telecommunications facilities and antennas. ... Also to ensure such structures are soundly and carefully designed, constructed, modified, maintained, repaired and removed when no longer used or are determined to be structurally unsound and to ensure that towers and antennas are compatible with surrounding land uses.”

There is no mention in the CUP application on how camouflaging will be used to screen the tower property tract, notably landscaping such as planting trees to mask the fence, building and base of the tower.

How has the applicant indicated that a cellular tower is compatible with “surrounding land uses” which includes, residential acreages and agricultural-related uses? There is also Government Canyon, which is a state of Nebraska wildlife management area established and maintained for many years for a wide variety of outdoor recreation pursuits. The proposed tower is an industrial use and does not conform to any of these land uses and their associated values.

Section 612.03

“2. No proposed tower shall be located within five miles of any existing tower, without approval of the Cherry county Board of Commissioners.”

How can this criteria be suitably evaluated if the necessary information is not provided by the applicant’s request.

“4. ... Upon completion of construction of a tower and prior to the commencement of use, an engineer’s certification that the tower is structurally sound and in conformance with all of the aforementioned applicable regulatory standards shall be filed with the Zoning Administrator.”

There was no item found in the application on how the applicant will comply with this regulation, nor the timeframe when it will be completed?

Section 612.04

“1. ...Applicants shall include the owner of the tract of land and all persons having an ownership interest in the proposed tower. The application shall be executed by all applicants.”

These details were not found in the applicant’s request packet. And note that the zoning regulations states “all persons” having an ownership interest, not just the company business name. “All persons” indicates everyone that has any ownership stake in the US Cellular. This would perhaps include users of the companies’ cellular service? This application was not “executed” by all applicants, but instead by an “agent” company for the owner of the proposed tower.

“2. The legal description and address of the tract of land on which the tower is to be located.”

There is no apparent proper road address included with the application that is a requirement for emergency response crews. Also, there is only a partial, and insufficient legal description; indicating the north one-half of a section is not detailed enough for a facility as small as the communications tower tract which is just relatively a short bunch of feet in extent. The quarter section should be specifically indicated, and even more details as appropriate.

“3. An affidavit attesting to the fact that the applicant has made diligent but unsuccessful effort to obtain permission to install or collocate the applicant’s telecommunication facilities on a tower or useable antenna support or written technical evidence from an engineer that the applicant’s telecommunications facilities cannot be installed or collocated on another tower or useable antenna support structure.”

This affidavit was not provided in the material provided to the zoning office, as it was not found among the application material available for review at the zoning administrator office on the morning of 26 April. Any cost to conduct this evaluation and prepare this affidavit should be paid for by the CUP applicant, and should be done by an independent engineer, not a company employee, nor a hired agent submitting the application, and not an employee of a subsidiary company of the applicant. This affidavit needs to represent an independent and non-biased perspective.

“5. Designation of an appropriate space for Cherry County’s operational and emergency services communication equipment to be provided at no cost to the County by the applicant.”

How has the applicant indicated that this requirement will be met?

Section 612.06

“4. Towers must meet the following minimum separation requirements from other towers:

“A. Monopole tower structures shall be separated from all other towers, whether monopole, self-supporting lattice, or guyed by a minimum of 750 feet.

“B. Self-supporting lattice or guyed towers shall be separated from all other self-supporting lattice or guyed towers by a minimum of 1,500 feet.”

Building a new monopole tower within less than 100 feet of another tower does not conform to these zoning regulations. Any excuse that one tower will replace another means this regulation will temporarily not be in compliance (when will the old tower be removed?). The regulations are obvious ... remove the first tower and then build the new tower to comply with this zoning requirement.

Also, by-the-way, the filing fee for communication tower applications should be increased to $250 to pay expenses for publishing suitable public notices – and which should not be a sentence in an ongoing meeting notice - and to offset costs for the time required by the zoning administrator to review applications and to make sure they are filed in accordance with all applicable zoning regulations. County residents should not be required to pay any sort of costs for a tower being placed by a for-profit company such as US Cellular, as indicative by this application.


Though most of these items were not considered by the members of the Planning and Zoning Board, the request for the CUP was approved by an unanimous vote.

It is a common point-of-view that the members basically ignored the zoning regulations. What is the purpose of regulations if they are ignored by a board responsible for making sure that any CUP application meets the requirements?



23 April 2018

Spring Surprise for Local Birds at Valentine

April 18, 2018. Valentine Midland News 46(92): 8. With a photograph of wild turkeys by Laura Vroman.

The blizzard on April 13-14, 2018 had a dramatic effect on the behavior of local wild birds. There were significant activities by local avifauna as the storm descended and during its duration as multiple inches of snow were atop nearly every place where birds usually foraged. As a result, other resources of food were found and appreciated.

At my residence on Lake Shore Drive, grain and seed have been freely provided for the local fauna for weeks. Dark-eyed Junco and the American Tree Sparrow have been especially prevalent, along with a pair of locally breeding Northern Cardinal.

As the storm was initially transitioning to heavy snow on Friday, dozens of American Robin flew into the pines on the hill. Birds were busily eating seed. A Sharp-shinned Hawk bounced off the north picture window and then just sat for a while to recover. Ten minutes later it was feeding just a few feet away upon a small songbird, perhaps a junco. During a bit of earlier time a Pine Siskin had flown in and immediately started eating seeds that moments before had been spread on a front step, with the front door still swinging open and a tall man less than three feet distant. This feathered mite was indifferent and upon my carefully returning indoors, it fed to its own content.

As the storm was underway and immediately afterward, there was a lot of birdly activity. On Sunday morning – while the deep snow lingered – there were 14 different species present at one time or another. Return visitors were local Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove and House Finch. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackle descended in bunches – again and again as they are very skittish but would soon return from nearby treetops – lingering enough to get something to eat. Their regular haunts are snow-covered or frozen marsh habitat. Unusual among the group were two male vibrantly colored Yellow-headed Blackbird.

There were lots of juncos, some apparently new to the place as they did not know how to deal with the glass of a picture window. Tree sparrows continued to linger, though it is late in the season for them to still be present. Among the bunch of birds was a Song Sparrow, as well as new arrivals being Harris’s Sparrow and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

A Red-tailed Hawk with its dramatic plumage coloration indicating an older age was seen perched atop a powerline pole, eating one of the many blackbirds. Some other blackbirds were sitting atop a nearby tree, watching as the hawk picked at the carcass of something which a buteo hawk does not typically eat; their usual prey is small mammals, but once again inches of snow would make hunting for a mouse a vole or a rabbit difficult. This bird is one of a pair that resides in the north hills and that are certainly striving to get enough to eat during their breeding season.

Initially only a couple of Wild Turkey gobblers visited, seen hurrying through inches of hillside snow to get to the cleared front walk so seeds and grain could be easily eaten without any need for scratch and search foraging. Later, the larger flock with more hens arrived to feed.

Though much of the Mill Pond water surface was ice on Sunday due to the exceptionally chilly temperatures (with a record overnight low of 9o), there was still a fine variety of waterfowl here and along Minnechaduza Creek. Canada Goose were most prominent, with lesser numbers of Blue-winged Teal (8), Northern Shoveler (2), Gadwall (4) and Green-winged Teal (6) taking advantage of the small areas that were not frozen water. In the same vicinity were a Killdeer and Greater Yellowlegs that found a bit of open-water creek suitable for foraging. Along the creek below the dam was a transient Redhead – the first time this species has been seen at this locality – and then four Wood Duck. A Belted Kingfisher was also heard as it especially appreciated the open water of the flowing creek through the park.

During the morning walk, the spot where a local sharpie had eaten a bluebird on the north side of the Mill Pond was discovered, as the remnants included obvious blue feathers. The bird perp was perched nearby and readily seen.

A species which has had a difficult time due to the weather would be the local Turkey Vultures. They could not forage during rain and snow, should would have had to sit still at their perch(s) and simply deal with the conditions. Then, once conditions improved to an extent to where they could at least soar about in search of carrion to eat, the snow cover would make this effort also very difficult since something edible would be buried to extent to where it might not be found.

Nearly any of the several bird feeders in the city area would have been appreciated and assisted in survival of many of our feathered friends. Certainly the people enjoy seeing the birds for which they provide feed.

My personal supply of seed and grain diminished significantly during the blizzard, as both food sources outside had to be regularly refreshed as the fast-rate snow kept covering what had been spread earlier.

It should be noted that a rabbit or two, a couple of squirrels and a fine bunch of White-tailed Deer have also enjoyed what has been provided at the shack buffet.