15 June 2009

NPPD Rejects Proposal for Wind Turbines Among Custer County Wetlands

A proposal for a large wind-turbine development among the wetlands of western Custer County has been found to not be acceptable to the Nebraska Public Power District.

NPPD has determined that six proposals will receive further consideration, from the 22 that were received for evaluation back in April.

The "six proposals were determined to be the best in meeting NPPD’s criteria through a careful evaluation of financial, transmission availability, and environmental considerations," according to company officials. "All sites under consideration are located east of Broken Bow or in the Petersburg area for economic and environmental reasons."

The review process included discussions with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "regarding environmental issues, including potential interference with migratory bird habitat, particularly the endangered whooping crane."

The development site in western Custer County - among the Central Table Playa wetlands – was opposed by state and federal agencies, as well as local landowners due to potential impacts to the crane, which regularly migrates through the area, and because of other impacts that could occur to the variety of migratory birds that occur.

For Ed and Maxine Wehling, who have actively worked in opposition to the proposed development, the decision brought a mixed reaction.

"While we are pleased at NPPD's decision to consider the migration corridor in Custer County, we do have reservations that BPAE will not let this project site go quietly."

British Petroleum Alternative Energy is the development company which had signed up leases for siting of the turbines about the Wehling’s residence.

In a related matter, a map showing areas with "sensitive" features such as birds or biologically unique habitats, was recently developed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and other officials.

"This map was designed to aid in planning for wind power development by identifying areas that are considered relatively more sensitive or less sensitive to such development, with respect to species of concern," the website summary states.

"This map does not serve as an environmental review as even in 'low sensitivity' areas shown, there will be specific locations where siting of wind power infrastructure can negatively impact significant biological resources (e.g. remnant tallgrass prairie, listed plant species, etc.)."

"Wind power and Nebraska's wildlife: An index of the sensitivity of wildlife habitats to wind power development, based on selected at-risk species" Map from NGPC online document.

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