An analysis of the proposed corridor for the r-project, the Nebraska Public Power District indicates the places and land features which will be altered by construction of the industrial powerline.
The proposed route shown raises many questions as to the rational for the chosen corridor. Why does the corridor follow a route of "greater impact" to grasslands and wetlands, for example? Why isn't every opportunity possible taken to follow current roadways rather than traversing undeveloped grasslands? Why are seemingly erratic changes made in the route.
NPPD has not made available any details on why the particular route was chosen and the factors considered in their decision. It is not possible to understand their reasoning for their preferred corridor. If the company is going to impose this industrial powerline on the region, they should provide details that justify their route selection to land-owners and others concerned about conserving unique sand hill resources.
Although this powerline is not welcomed by land-owners along the route and others, it is still valuable to undertake a detailed analysis. The following comments are based upon a review of available maps associated with the route (especially those available at www.nationalmap.gov) , starting at its western terminus at the Gerald Gentleman power plant near Sutherland.
As the route heads northward from the east side of Sutherland Reservoir, it does follow a roadway until it reaches the north side of the North Platte River. A couple of mile northward, the roadway veers westward while the corridor continues northward along the west side of Birdwood creek for eight miles through an area of sandhills with only scattered ranch trails and no land development features.
An alternative evaluated but not selected could have routed the corridor 3.5 miles to the east. Although this route does not follow the roadway present, towards the north land is agland with center-pivot irrigation systems.
An eastern route could follow along a roadway from three miles east of the reservoir to about four miles north of the North Platte River. At this point, the line could go directly east, crossing Highway 97 until it reaches Highway 83. This option is shown on the NPPD map, but was not selected.
This alternative would completely avoid any impacts to the grassland habitats west of Birdwood Creek and completely avoid placing a powerline over the west branch of this creek.
At Highway 83, the corridor could start 2.5 miles further to the south than the preferred route indicated.
The powerline should continue along Highway 83 to avoid impacts to outlying areas, though it will destroy any scenic views.
South of Thedford about 3.5 miles, the corridor suddenly shifts a mile eastward of the highway for two miles, then jogs eastward another one-half mile, apparently to avoid a hill.
This is no apparent reason that the corridor could not continue along Highway 83 to Highway 2, and then eastward to the present power-substation. Or even adjacent to the present powerline along the T21-22N R27W boundary.
Instead, there would be two distinct powerline corridors in this immediate vicinity.
The corridor of this other powerline, which is already present, goes diagonally to the northeast as it leaves Thedford, and continues for about ten miles until it goes into Cherry county.
For the r-project line, the route goes straight north for six miles and then straight east along a route through the sandhills where there are no roadways for numerous miles.
The proposed corridor would be be placed just south of Carson Lake (PEMF and PEMC wetlands) and other wetlands to its immediate south; which is one mile north of the county road visible at the bottom of the map graphic. (Information from www.nationalmap.gov)
Once again, the rational for not following the current corridor is not indicated.
There is the possibility that the proposed corridor was selected to so that the proposed Thedford wind facility would have to construct a lesser extent of powerline to connect to the new powerline. It would require about 4-5 miles with the preferred route, versus about twice this length if the alternative indicated here was utilized.
It seems enigmatic that the proposed Thedford wind-turbine facility and the proposed r-project line would have such a close conjunction.
The route continues along a county road one-half mile north of Purdum for 1.5 miles, and then continues eastward across the North Loup River and onward across sandhills ranchland.
Eventually in northern Blaine county, the corridor goes past an unnamed wetland, and then Goldman lake, and between this lake and others wetland a mile to the southward.
At 2.5 miles into Loup county, the route is moved a mile northward and follows this alignment throughout the county. This entire length is thorough sandhills grassland, and is immediately north of the Switzer, Morgan and Price ranches, which are the eastern core of the Greater Gracie Creek Important Bird Area. There are numerous wetland features in the vicinity of Gracie creek.
Upon reaching Garfield county, after a mile, the route is moved to one mile south of the county line. Within four miles the line would be built on the south side of Carson lake and between it and other wetlands to its immediate south.
The proposed corridor would be placed between the PEMF wetland at the bottom and the unnamed wetland along in the center of this combined aerial photograph and designated wetlands graphic.
There is a north-south county road 1.25 miles eastward of the Loup-Garfield counties boundary.
The corridor could follow this right-of-way to two miles south of the north Garfield county line and avoid the Carson lake wetland complex entirely; as well as other wetlands eastward near Highway 7. This would also provide easier access and avoid impact to sandhills grasslands.
By continuing the route along this alignment, the powerline would not split through the Rush lakebed which still has wetlands and the unnamed lake to its north. Both of these wetland locales are associated with nearby Chain Lake in Holt county.
The corridor continues straight when suddenly four miles west of the Garfield-Wheeler counties boundary, it is moved a mile northward.
There are no land features obvious on the maps to provide the reason for this shift.
The route should instead continue in a straight line until one mile east of the Wheeler county line. Starting two miles west of the county line, there is a county road which goes northward one mile, then eastward one mile to the county line. The route could then go northward another miles to the county road, and follow this route eastward, as proposed by NPPD.
Again, for some unknown reason, instead of following the roadway along the county boundary, at five miles west of the eastern boundary of Wheeler county, the corridor is shifted one-half mile to the north, so it goes into Holt county and continues through the middle of five land sections until the eastern terminus is reached at the current western transmission line along the Holt-Antelope counties boundary.
Where this shift occurs, the line would go through an undeveloped grassland area as shown on current aerial photographs. It would then go through the middle of several ag fields watered by center-pivot systems, and place the powerline just south of the Sehi reservoir, rather than one-half mile to the south. There are also several areas of timber along this corridor. There is much less woodland along the county road.
Once again, there is no apparent rational for this change in alignment.
The preferred route as designated by NPPD is not acceptable for many reasons, and especially due to some of the reasons indicated in this analysis. The route selection seems to be erratic at times and not done with sufficient attention to important environmental resources. The designated route should be withdrawn.
If NPPD insists on constructing the r-project, they need to have more people involved in the route selection, especially residents and others concerned with the fate of the sandhills and its resources.