Preserve the Sandhills

god's own cattle country

The Sandhills are 19,300 square miles of rolling, grass covered hills sitting atop the Ogallala Aquifer and home to Cattle Ranches that are the lifeblood of the area.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns every animal and every bird and every beast. He owns us. For His greatness and goodness, we “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15)

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Cattle and the sandhills

The Sandhills of Nebraska, located in West Central Nebraska, is home to cattle ranching and cattle.  720 different species cover the rolling sand dunes that make this area.  This forage serves as food for over 530,000 head of cattle.  The cattle in this area outnumber people at a ratio of 3 to 1.  During the 1870s, Cattlemen discovered the potential that the Sandhills held.  Through failed attempts of farming due to the fragility of the soil, grazing cattle was found to be exactly what God created this area of the United States for.

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the Sandhills rancher

The Sandhills Rancher is God's steward of His great land.  Whether that Rancher be a man or a woman, their livestock, their land, their ranch, their families, are of the utmost importance in their lives.  They work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The life of a Rancher evolves around calving and enduring sleepness nights, focusing on genetics for that next calf crop, monitoring range and supplement needs of cows and calves, preparing feed for the colder months, upkeep of fences and windmills, and a plethora of jobs that each new day brings.

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an agricultural community

The Sandhills of Nebraska is an area rooted deeply in agriculture.  Multi-generational families operate many of the ranches and encourage new families to become a part of their communities.  Agriculture through the raising of cattle has helped the Sandhills area endure the ups and downs of the cattle market.  It has stood the true test of time since the 1870s.  Though population and the market fluctuate, one thing holds true...agriculture is the lifeblood of this area and welcomes all that wish to experience it.

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Articles and Facts

Preserve the Sandhills believes in educating and learning about how transmission lines, wind farms, solar farms, hydrogen and/or biomass will affect you and the area that you live in.

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Dear Cherry County Commissioner:

 

 I am writing this letter to share my experiences derived from being directly responsible for the Construction of two Wind Farms and potential issues I feel may be encountered if these are allowed to be constructed in the Nebraska Sandhills.

 

I was directly involved in the 274 turbine “Cedar Creek Wind Project” built in 2006-2007 near Grover, Colorado as well as the 37 turbine “Macho Springs Wind Farm” located between Deming and Hatch, New Mexico. My responsibilities on both these projects  were to oversee the construction of turbine access roads, foundation excavation and backfill, grading of turbine radius and crane pads, and the final restoration of the project at completion including re-vegetation of native grass on these sights.

 

The typical turbine access road includes construction of a gravel surfaced access road with 10 foot shoulders that are compacted and graded to allow access of large 450 ton cranes to walk from turbine site to turbine site to prevent costly tear down of cranes. These roads and crane paths can require large cut/fill scenarios the crane requires to be level enough both in graded and side slope to walk. The foundation are typically 8 feet deep and roughly 70 feet wide.  The turbine erection areas require grading a radius of 120 to 150 feet to allow assembly of the rotor and blades before they are set with crane.

 

The bottom line is the dirt work is fairly invasive which is not a big problem on normal soils that are heavy in nature, but what keeps the sand from absolutely blowing away in some of the Sandhills areas? If turbine areas are stripped of vegetation and any organic matter needed to reseed to allow grass to re-grow is lost during construction how does one ever stop the continual erosion?

 

It is hard to predict how long Wind Turbine technology will remain viable, however if these are allowed to be constructed in the most fragile ecosystem I know of, that being the Sandhills, what scars will remain for many years to come?  Of course, the decommissioning of these when they are worn out or unprofitable will reopen the damage that will be present from initial construction, that being erosion and removal of the Native Vegetation that holds the sand from moving.

 

Sincerely

 

Doug Keller

 

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The Art of Deception

 

The R-Project is a 345,000 volt transmission line intended to cross 225 miles of Nebraska to the tune of $363 million dollars.  During the scheme of the creation of the R-Line Project, NPPD has been tasked with providing studies to satisfy the Draft Environmental Impact Statement supervised by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services.  These studies are bought and paid for by NPPD, whom is now a finger of the Southwest Power Pool located in Little Rock, Arkansas.  One of these such studies is on the North American Whooping Crane.

The Whooping Crane is not much different than the American Bison.  Once upon a time, their population flourished.  There were thousands roaming the prairies of the United States.  This all changed when hunting and habitat loss were taken to the extreme and their numbers were diminished within reach of extinction.  It is estimated that there were over 10,000 Whooping Cranes in the United States.  In the 1940s, they dipped to 21.  Today there are over 430 that migrate from Texas to Canada each year.  We learned the tragedy of the buffalo at our hands.  Let us ask you this:  Why would we repeat it with the Whooping Crane or any other animal or bird? 

Above is a map that demonstrates ‘The Art of Deception’ by NPPD.  The black dots notate the historical data locations of Whooping Cranes that have been spotted across the State of Nebraska within the R-Project construction zone from the 1940s to present.  This data was provided for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  According to NPPD, there will be little impact to the Whooping Cranes in the R-Project route, therefore they do not need an Incidental Take Permit.

Now, if you will note the orange dots, these represent 58 Whooping Cranes that were tagged with GPS location devices.  This telemetry data, provided upon request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, represents a stronger and more accurate picture of the population of the Whooping Crane and the route in which they migrate. 

The following is from NPPD’s website regarding the R-Project:  “NPPD is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner. We are dedicated to protecting environmental quality while meeting the energy needs of Nebraska. We recognize that how we interact with the environment is of vital importance to you. It is to us, too.”

We live in a technologically driven world.   There is no excuse for NPPD to use data that only favored them for such an enormous project that has the potential to negatively impact the State of Nebraska and its residents.  To use data that is reliant upon the sightings of higher populated areas versus electronic transmittal, is simply NPPD playing the game of deceiving the public.  We must protect rural America.

 

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Industrial Energy Development

 

The R-Project has been stated that its main purpose is to relieve congestion on the grid and provide sustainability.  It has also been stated that it will encourage industrial renewable energy, in the form of wind and solar, in rural areas of Nebraska. 

Under the current Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) being reviewed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, NPPD has stated that only one (1) interconnection agreement for industrial wind energy is being considered. 

In reviewing the Southwest Power Pool’s future interconnection queue, we note that there are five (5) industrial wind facilities that are being proposed once the 345,000 volt R-Project transmission line is constructed.  The importance of this number is that NPPD does not acknowledge the entire impact that their line will have in the State of Nebraska.  They have narrowed it down to one, which is the Thunderhead industrial wind facility in Holt County, Nebraska.  The DEIS has a provision that specifies ‘Cumulative Impact.’  This should include all of the proposed facilities currently in the Southwest Power Pool queue, not just the ones that NPPD wants them to consider.  The ‘Cumulative Impact’ of all of the industrial wind facilities, and those that follow once the door is opened, will forever change the face of rural America in Nebraska. 

Rural Nebraska is known for its beauty in the plains.  To deface it with enormous wind towers ranging from 400-600 feet tall, massive solar arrays and huge transmission towers, would be an insult to what Nebraska and Nebraskans are truly about. 

 

personal testimonies

The following is for Preserve the Sandhills Followers that wish to have their stories told and their opinions heard.  

Please feel free to contact us if you would like us to post a personal excerpt.

 
 
 
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the fear of eminent domain

NPPD has interest in the Nebraska Sandhills to build the R-Line Project.  This project consists of a 345,000 volt transmission line crossing Nebraska for 225 miles.  NPPD states that it "will help enhance operation of NPPD's electric transmission system, relieve congestion, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects."  Currently, NPPD has only obtained ? of the easements.  If these easements are not obtained, NPPD has the right to pursue eminent domain.  What does this mean to the landowner?  The taking of your land, whether you like it or not.  

 
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a personal story

Holt County Couple Speak on Turbine Facility

Author note: The names of the couple that spoke at the public meeting of the zoning board meeting are not given in this article to facilitate its publication. Primary in the decision to spread this story regarded the situation as expressed by the speakers at a public zoning board meeting at Valentine in early January that should be conveyed to so many others. Also, spoken comments were made at a public meeting, and are therefore public information as personally noted. Minutes of this meeting made by the secretary of the board, will, according to details heard at the most recent January meeting of the Cherry County Commissioners - be made available online. Comments made at a public venue are public information. As the author of this story, it has been a difficult conundrum. The overall decision was to share the information so that many more could realize what may occur when wind turbines are placed on a local landscape.

Grand Prairie Wind Turbine Facility

A couple dealing with a massive wind turbine facility in Holt county have experienced the process and results associated with the planning and subsequent operation of an industrial wind turbine facility in northern Nebraska.

Speaking to the Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board on January 3rd, they indicated how turbines at the Grande Prairie Wind Farm located northeast of O’Neill has “ruined” values which they once readily appreciated at their rural residence. The couple travelled to Valentine to share their experiences with zoning board members now considering changes to Cherry county zoning regulations pertaining to wind energy conversion systems.

The couple reside on property within one and 1/3 mile of the nearest turbine of the Grande Prairie facility that has 200 model 110 Vista turbines. About 60 of them are visible from the a corner of the property where the couple has lived for 20 years.

The extent and ongoing occurrence of noises from operational turbines was especially prominent in their comments. Noisy conditions occur regularly since the turbines became operational at the end of October, 2016.

Turbine noise is heard “every day,” said the mister. 

"The noise is not constant as we always hear it but when we hear it it is a steady constant noise not rising or falling like the wind, therefore it is a very unnatural sound," the missus said. “On any given day there is a different sound.” On occasion the sound is similar to a shoe thumping in a dryer. They have found that the noise is worse when the turbine blades are rotating away from their home, and the back side of the turbine nacelle is closer. The sounds carry across the level landscape until it meets an obstruction, which in this case, is their home.

To document the extent of the noise, they rely on decibel meter to determine readings at various times. On occasion, levels were measured at 52-68 dBA within their house, and 68 to 82 dBA outside. Early in January, 2017, there was a reading of 50 dBA within their home. Noise from the operating turbines can readily exceed typical residential sounds such as a furnace running or television volume.

County regulations indicate that noise levels should not exceed 50 dBA.

“I miss the peace of the night,” the missus said. She used to be able to enjoy hearing the calls of resident owls, coyotes howling and otherwise appreciate their rural setting. Prominent sounds now can regularly be those of operating wind turbines. It is “very disturbing, and not natural,” she said. When the weather and wind direction changes, the extent of noise also varies.

“A neighbor three miles distance from the turbines can hear them,” the mister said.

Blinking red lights atop the many turbines are also notably obvious in the night skyscape, which was formerly nothing but stars.

The couple had initially been told by project developers that no turbine would be placed within five miles of their home. A map they provided at the Cherry county board meeting showed that the extent of turbine placement was much greater than originally proposed.

“Zoning regulations were not as strong as they should have been,” the mister said, noting that some members of the zoning board currently have an opinion that the project “should not have happened.” There was only one initial public meeting, they said.

Three primary concerns for the Holt county zoning board have been: 1) decibels of noise from the turbines at the site and nearby; 2) influence on land values; and, 3) the designated setback distance. There were also other items that the zoning board dealt with. 

The gentleman from Holt county said the project has been “very disturbing to people that live near the site. It has split families and neighbors. It is a mess.”

There was some economic benefit to the community during the construction phase, he said. Any other economic benefits to the county are not yet apparent. 

A prominent comment they made was that 80% of the owners of property where the turbines are placed do not live at the site, but instead reside in O’Neill or elsewhere. These owners receive thousands per month in payment for having a turbine on the property. 

The Grande Prairie project was started in 2008. The county zoning board initially heard about the proposal in 2014, it was said. This project has been sold twice, and is currently owned and operated by Berkshire Hathaway Energy. 

They mentioned Berkshire Hathaway Energy constructs wind turbine facilities due to tax breaks.

Warren Buffett has invested in wind energy for years, notably because of the federal government tax subsidies to generate wind power, according to press reports. "That’s the only reason to build them,” Buffett said. "They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

There is a proposal for an additional 25 turbines to be placed amidst the facility which comprises 54,000 acres. Some members of the planning board are hoping for a delay on any further placement of any more of the massive turbines.

The couple indicated they would welcome anyone wanting to visit and personally experience conditions associated with living near the operational turbines at one of the largest wind turbine facilities in Nebraska.

Cherry County Zoning

People present at this meeting included 8 of the 9 members of the zoning board, the zoning administrator and 12 guests with most of them indicating their name on a sign-in page. The wife of a newly elected county commissioner, once again, declined an opportunity to put her name on an attendee list.

No decisions were made to revise any zoning regulations during this meeting. Particular attention was given to the three items that the county commissioners indicated that the planning board members needed to consider. Several sources of information were discussed and then documentation was provided for individual members to consider for discussion at the February meeting of the Cherry county zoning board.

 
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Save The Sandhills

savethesandhills.com, preservethesandhills.com

Say No to the R-Project Transmission Line!

The R-Project power lines would bring destruction to the sandhills. Not only the R-project power lines, but also future wind turbines/wind farms will destroy the sandhills and all that lives here. We need to preserve this land, and all the special species that live here. Not only are the huge power lines destructive to many migratory bird, but the route goes right through a very highly populated burying beetle habitat. In all areas the burying beetle population is decreasing, only here in the sandhills are they thriving and increasing. Both the Burying Beetle and the Whooping Cranes are on the endangered species list.

On the University of Nebraska website http://www.museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/endanger.htm it says “The American burying beetles are an important part of a vast host of scavengers that are responsible for recycling decaying materials back into the ecosystem. They are also referred to as burying beetles or sexton beetles. There are 570 species of silphids found worldwide, and 31 of them occur in North America. There are 18 species in Nebraska.”, and it goes on to say “Considering the broad geographic range formerly occupied by the American burying beetle, it is unlikely that vegetation or soil type were historically limiting. Today, the American burying beetle seems to be largely restricted to areas most undisturbed by human influence. In Nebraska, the Sandhills is just such an area, and it is there that the beetles have been recently rediscovered.” One of the reasons things have thrived for so long here is because ranchers through the years have tried to preserve and protect the sandhills. The people here know how to take care of the land and wildlife.

The other endangered species is the Whooping Cranes, which is a migratory bird. This spring we were blessed in seeing a family (Dad, Mom, and Baby) of Whooping cranes on our ranch. It was the first family sighting in Nebraska. They are beautiful birds and it would be tragic to put harm to them. It was amazing to see them dance and to hear their call (Whooping).  Not only is it destructive to the Whooping cranes but also many other migratory birds. You can look online and see the many deaths power lines and wind turbines have caused.

Other impacts to the sandhills would be to the Oregon Trail ruts. Not only can you see the impact something makes to the sandhills, because these ruts from the Pioneer wagons are still there, but also we want to preserve this special historic landmark.

Please help us in preserving the sandhills, the species that live here, and the history of our past.

US Fish and Wildlife         

9325 B South Alda Road

Wood River, NE 68883

(402) – 382 – 6468

 

Please email or write your comments by August 15th to:

 

Eliza Hines at eliza_hines@fws.gov                                         

Bob Harms at robert_harms@fws.gov

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