The Sand Hills and its naturalistic setting have been recently recognized as top assets by visitors to Nebraska.
Two of the top five descriptions appreciated were wide-open spaces and beautiful nature and scenery, according to a survey conducted by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. The Sand Hills were one of the most frequently mentioned attributes for the state.
Cattle country of the hills and its unique refuges and other settings are obviously appreciated not only by its residents, but also by visitors that come to the state to enjoy its attractions.
This setting an unique asset will be damaged by pending industrial development.
The R-Project being promoted by the Nebraska Public Power District will place a huge power-transmission line across a great swath of the hills. One claim is that it will improve reliability of their service. They service is reliable now, so why is more than $300 million dollars being spent for a "so-called" improvement.
To make an analogy, most people that own a car have just one. Its kept in working condition and repaired when necessary. Personally, my only bicycle has seen so many repairs that the only original part is the decades old frame.
NPPD will destroy prairie, construct a powerline hazardous to birds and ruin scenic vistas. They will not, and cannot mitigate for the ruination of vistas by placement of hundreds of steel towers upon the land.
Once the R-Project is completed, there will be cascading impacts since one purpose of this endeavor is to allow local development of wind-turbine facilities.
One place in particular readily indicates the potential for damaging changes. Just drive north of Thedford on Highway 83. A short distance into Cherry County, slow down and look to the west to appreciate a grand vista which is a wide-open space, and a beautiful setting that truly represents what the sandhills are about. A big extent of this vista is public property, owned by the Educational Lands and Funds. It's leased school land. A few months ago, it looked the same as it has for decades.
The setting has being altered for money. There will be a meteorological tower to evaluate this land's suitability for wind turbines, based upon a decision made by agency staff, without any public discussion. They say it is being done to maximize income for schools. They have apparently not considered that when it comes to assets, some children might prefer a prairie, not an industrial wind turbine facility.
Turbine facilities also have another requirement. They have to be connected to the regional power-grid, which will require the construction of additional power lines.
There is a triple threat to the unique setting of the sandhills, and the proponents for these projects are focused on making a change that will severely ravage what many people deem to be valuable in its current condition. Consider also, the ongoing placement of cellular towers which also impact any local vista, and mar the dark skies by their incessant blinking lights at night.
NPPD will not stop its effort to build the R-Project. Cherry county residents will not stop their effort to bring industrial wind-turbine facilities into the region.
An asset is something valuable and appreciated. There are efforts underway to lessen the distinctive aspects of the Sandhills, with its unique setting and unsurpassed heritage.
Enjoy the wide open spaces now, because they are continually being altered and their value lessened if not destroyed.