24 August 2016

Court Case Between Ranch and NPPD Decision in August

James E. Ducey. August 18, 2016. Decision on powerline placement between ranch and NPPD should be known by end of August. Grant County News 132(3): 18.

A decision on a case pitting a ranch owner in the central Sand Hills and the Nebraska Public Power District that wants to place an industrial-sized powerline on their property should be known by the end of August.

Dan and Barb Welch own the ranch which is notably unique for its features and management practices. They have not provided permission to NPPD to survey the alignment for a segment of the R-Project so the case went to court.

A hearing on Brush Creek Ranch LLC v. NPPD was held in Thomas County court on August 11th. Judge Donald E. Rowlands heard comments from attorney David Domina - representing the land owners - and Kila Johnson representing NPPD.

The particular point of contention is whether NPPD has access to the Welch ranch, based upon current applicable Nebraska legislation (statute section 76-702).

Judge Rowlands also asked two questions of the attorneys at the court hearing, said Craig Andresen a local correspondent:

1) Have core studies been done for the locations of the towers: the response was no, with no plans for any to be done
2) Would the transmission lines be used to transport electricity generated by wind turbines: the response was yes

An additional concern is that NPPD will not provide remuneration for any damages to landowner property, following placement of the powerline towers.

The hearing lasted about 60-70 minutes, said Craig Andresen, while presenting a summary of the hearing during a KSDZ and KDJL broadcast live from the Cherry County fair. Nearby in the exhibition building, members and supporters of the recently organized group, Preserve the Sandhills, were providing information to visitors and gathering signatures from county residents opposed to turbines and industrial powerlines.

It was noted that the R-project would continue, even if the case was decided in favor of Welch. The company would however, not be allowed to conduct any preconstruction survey.

Prior to the court hearing, about 150 people showed up to peaceably convey their opposition to the powerline proposal and wind turbines, said Carolyn Semin of Kilgore, treasurer of Preserve the Sandhills; president is Merrial Rhoades, a resident of southeast Cherry County.

“We walked around the courthouse carrying signs and banners,” Semin said, noting that people applauded when the Dan and Barb Welch arrived.

There would be “92 miles” of new roads required to provide vehicular access to R-Project construction and maintenance, Andresen indicated. There would also be the need for a “landing pad” every 10 miles where construction material would be placed, and which needs to be within the five mile limit of range for a helicopter that would be used to place the lattice towers for the powerline.

It was also noted that by using existing roadways, the cost of the project could be reduced by $92 million, Andresen said.

Domina encouraged people to pursue options on tower placement, he said.

“A pseudo-government company should not do surveys on private property,” Andresen said during an August 12th discussion with Jim Lambley, radio announcer.

At a luncheon after the hearing at Thedford, a number of people gathered to discuss turbines and powerlines, Semin said.

Volunteers also inserted an advocacy letter into an envelope, and readied them for a mailing to registered voters in Cherry, Blaine, Thomas, Hooker and Grant counties.

“I was pleased with the support shown for the Welch’s and for people to show-up in opposition to wind turbines and industrial powerlines in the sandhills,” Semin said. “People need to continue their active involvement."

Recently organized group, Preserve the Sandhills, providing information from their booth to visitors at the Cherry County Fair.