10 May 2014

Land Ownership for Proposed Cherry County Turbine Project

The wind-turbine project proposed for Cherry county, northwest of Thedford, would place 147 turbines upon what is now prairie grassland. The project site starts about two miles west of Highway 83, and continues for about seven miles westward in township 25 north, and range 28-29 west.

The land where the massive turbines will be placed includes a mix of public and private property. Based upon details provided on the Federal Aviation Administration website, that indicates the specific site for each registered turbine, the ownership of the property was determined by comparing the indicated turbine locale with Cherry county land ownership particulars also available online.

Details indicate that the majority of the turbines would be placed upon public property managed by the Bureau of Educational Lands and Funds. The particulars are:

  • Bureau of Educational Lands and Funds: 77 turbines
  • Hamilton Ranch Inc.: 28
  • South L.L.C., of Thedford: 18
  • Eatinger Lands Ltd.: 10
  • Messersmith Trust: 7
  • Gordon Family Ranch, of Thedford: 6
  • and others associated with the 147 turbine development, as proposed.

Email communications in late March from BELF staff indicate that the agency was not aware of the FAA approval for turbines on property they manage.

"No one connected with BELF has ever received any confirmation of where any turbines might eventually be built in Cherry County. ... we also have no idea of when any turbines may be installed," according to Richard Endacott, director of BELF. Mr. Endacott also indicated that the BELF board "is supportive of wind development as a renewable energy resource" and will "likely continue to be receptive to properly planned and managed wind development."

However, the BELF board has not approved the placement of wind turbines on their property in southern Cherry county.

According to an email from BELF, agency staff indicated that: "Since this association in still in development stage, there has never been discussion by our Board of when, how many, or where any such turbines might be placed on our property in Cherry County; thus, there has never been any Board approval of the placement of numerous wind turbines on School trust Land in Cherry County."

There has never been a meeting where the owners of the property — the citizens of Nebraska — have been given an opportunity to express their perspective. Instead, the BELF board is making decisions in regards to land use without making any particular effort to consider public opinion.

The placement of this number of wind turbines will permanently destroy the natural features of thousands of acres.

The siting of this wind-turbine facility is problematic, according to "threats and stressors" designated for the sandhills region. The 2014 strategic plan for the Sandhills Task Force" includes this text: "Energy Development: Poorly-sited large-scale energy development, and similar large-scale developments can negatively affect large tracts of continuous grasslands."

This is precisely the sort of development being proposed for the north Thedford project. The grassland setting will be dramatically altered by the placement of the turbines, burial of electrical lines, providing access roadways and construction of a substation.

The turbine facility will also destroy the view-scape westward of Highway 83 just north of the Cherry county boundary. Currently, it is a grand vista of grassland with nothing that mars the landscape. The proposed setting would be dramatically altered once this project gets built.