In addition to numerous other reasons to not approve this permit request, there are three points of particular concern that need to be given attention and consideration.
In regards to wetlands, the applicant has not fulfilled the process required to receive a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“In order to determine if a wetland is isolated, and that the Corps does not have jurisdiction, we must complete an Approved Jurisdictional Determination. The AJD is requested by the person proposing the work of landowner,” – John Moeschen email, Nebraska Regulatory office, Army Corps of Engineers.
Based upon recent correspondence with the federal agency, no request has been made so the project applicant is not in compliance with federal law. The consulting company that prepared the permit request document, as amended, has stated that they cannot determine whether the wetlands at the project site are jurisdictional.
It needs to be indicated that the Cherry County Comprehensive plans states that “All development ... potentially affecting wetlands must comply with state and federal wetlands protection programs.” The permit applicant has blatantly ignored this provision. There is no information within the permit application indicating how any of the proposed development will a) “leave a naturally vegetated buffer surrounding all wetlands,” or b) how the site plan for turbines, roads or utility lines will minimize placing fill in the myriad of wetland features on the project site.
A "draft bird and bat conservation strategy” was prepared for BSH Kilgore in July 2016. This document states that “various processes will be employed to:
- “Comply with all state and federal bird and bat conservation and protection laws and regulations during the Project.
- “Ensure that impacts to bird and bat resources are identified and analyzed.
- “Implement various avoidance and minimization measures to address any impacts that result from the operation of the Project.”
This document does have informative details, yet there is only some light words that address these stated goals.
There is nothing indicated on how the project would comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, where it is a violation of a federal law if any single wildbird is killed due to collision with the turbine blades. It is a well-known fact, as shown by multiple studies, that migratory birds are regularly killed by turbines.
In regards to the second item, there is an allusion to “post-construction monitoring,” yet it supposedly will occur for only one year. The project plan is for 20 years and any habitat impacts or deaths due to collisions would for this entire period. There is no indicated plan for any sort of post-construction evaluation on impacts to wild birds or the bats present.
There are more than 300 bird species that are known to occur in Cherry county. The draft document mentions very few of these. During the past 34 years, starting in May 1982 in Cherry county, it has been readily obvious that numerous surveys during every month of the year are required in order to determine the overall extent of bird occurrence at any place. After doing multiple hundreds of bird surveys within the Sandhills, my realization is that bird-related knowledge and understanding requires extensive study and research. These key aspects are not apparent in the slight report prepared by some big-city consultant company.
One section of the report is about “adaptive management.” However, none of these so-called “strategies” are indicated by definitive details. They are not expressed within the conditional permit application, so the project developer has not documented how any of these items will actually occur.
The consultant report states: “To minimize risk to Whooping Cranes and other birds, bird flight diverters will be installed on all Project overhead transmission lines in accordance with Avian Power Line Interaction Committee guidelines.” This is a superbly ridiculous statement as the next line in this report states that all inter-project transmission lines will be buried. The project developers will seemingly thus do nothing of this sort.
It also needs to be pointed out, that a few days of survey time in June does not convey the entirety of bird use for a locality. This is what the applicant report is using to try to indicate how there has been a suitable evaluation of the local avifauna. The report is misleading and inadequate. There are species likely to occur yet are not listed for the breeding bird survey tally, including very common species in the county such as the Killdeer, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and Common Nighthawk.
There has been no survey done to determine the occurrence of any cultural resources at the project site. Once again, the applicant is indifferent to undertaking a proper determination, and disregarding this possible legacy of the historic landscape, and the many people that have been present at one time or another at the project site land.
Each of the items indicated in my public testimony have not been suitably considered by the project applicant. Much of what has been said is simply empty words on paper.
It would be a travesty for county officials to approve this application because this permit request is wrong in so many ways.