Preserve the Sandhills

god's own cattle country

We, human beings, are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations. — Pope Francis

IMG_0316 (1).JPG

World class natural wonder

The peaceful grace of the gently rolling Nebraska Sandhills lay like a blanket over the Ogallala Aquifer and provide an ever-changing backdrop for scores of wildlife and millions of birds that traverse the North American Central Flyway every year. Springtime is approaching, and it is nearly time for the annual spring migration of the Sandhill Crane — A World Class Natural Wonder. It’s the incredible starry nights of your dreams. Historic towns and villages. Meandering rivers. The history of pioneers and the plains. Find it all along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

https://sandhillsjourney.com

TDR Hand.jpg

the Sandhills rancher

What is a Sandhills Cattle Rancher? It is someone that is God’s steward of the land and its animals. It is a weathered cowboy that has a wife and kids that are ‘The Ranchhands.” It is an older generation in hopes of passing a way of life to the younger generation. It is a younger generation with dreams of being a Cowboy. In the Sandhills, it is someone that takes land not suitable for farming or plowing up and creates an oasis to raise cattle to feed the world.

Branding.jpg

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.

IMG_2762.JPG

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.

Cranes.jpg

Senator Tom Brewer

43rd District

2-15-2019

 

My priority bill, LB 155, was advanced to general file out of the Natural Resources Committee this week. I want to thank the chairman of this committee, Sen. Dan Hughes, for his help doing this. Since I’ve been in the legislature, I have been trying to get a bill that addresses the many concerns my constituents have with wind energy voted out of committee to the floor of the legislature.

 

I also want to thank my constituents, and people from all over the state, who came to the hearing and testified in support of my bill. For over two years, many of my constituents have driven over 1,000 miles round trip, in winter weather, over treacherous roads, in the middle of calving season, to support the bills I have introduced. I cannot thank them enough. They truly are the embodiment of the “Second House” that was envisioned for our Unicameral Legislature.   

 

Despite the many misrepresentations and out-right falsehoods the opponents of LB 155 made in their testimony to the Natural Resources Committee, the bill is very simple. It repeals one sentence from the law:

 

In Chapter 70, Section 1014.02, subparagraph (5) the last sentence reads: “The exercise of eminent domain to provide needed transmission lines and related facilities for a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use.”

 

LB 155 strikes this sentence from the law. This is all the bill does. Nothing more. People can see for themselves here:  https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=37251

 

I want this sentence repealed from the law because it is morally wrong to give private citizens the government power of eminent domain over their neighbors just so they can make money. Imagine Tom and Tony are neighboring ranchers. Tony loves wind energy and welcomes the construction of massive turbines on his place. Tony needs an interconnect (feeder) powerline across Tom’s ranch to connect his wind farm to the power grid. Tom doesn’t like Tony’s wind farm and refuses to grant him a voluntary easement for the powerline. Tony contacts Nebraska Public Power District and cites this law. Because his wind farm is considered a “public use” NPPD uses its power of eminent domain against Tom and the powerline is built on Tony’s behalf, and there is nothing Tom can do about it.

 

Should a private citizen engaged in a private activity have the ability to use the government power of eminent domain against his neighbor so he can make money? This is the question that will be debated by the legislature in the weeks to come. I hope people follow this debate. I hope they take a minute and tell their State Senator how they feel about it.

 

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

 

Whooping Crane Hist Data vs Telemetry.jpg

Whooping Cranes Must Be Protected from R-Project Powerline

Nebraska Sen. Tom Brewer
District 43
December 14, 2018

My legislative aide and I drove to Denver to visit with the Mountain-Prairie Regional Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently. I wanted to ask them questions about NPPD's ill-conceived R-Project powerline that is planned to tear through the heart of Nebraska's Sandhills so a handful of people can make money off a terribly flawed government program.

I was told by Noreen Walsh, regional director, and her chief biologist that there was "no reasonable expectation of take for whooping cranes" for NPPD's R-Project power line. This is government speak that means: Probably not going to kill whooping cranes. This turned out to be a false statement.

The R-Project had to undergo an Environmental Impact Study ran by USFWS. Analyzing the impact the project has on threatened and endangered species is one of the things the EIS has to do under federal law. During this process it was determined by USFWS biologists that there was a "reasonable expectation of take" for the North American burying beetle, an insect on the endangered species list. Consequently, NPPD had to apply for an Incidental Take Permit. This acts as a license from the federal government for someone to accidently kill (take) wildlife that is on the endangered species list.

The impact the R-Project has on whooping cranes was also part of the EIS. It used very old and sparse data. Using this old data USFWS biologists concluded there was "no reasonable expectation of take for whooping cranes." Several months ago, a "new" study, that was partially funded by the USFWS, was brought to light. This study involved over 50 individual birds fitted with GPS trackers. The resulting data set was new, large and detailed. The biologists analyzed the data and even obtained an independent review from a wildlife biologist at Oklahoma State University. They concluded the "new" data definitely demonstrated there was a reasonable expectation of take (would likely kill) migrating whooping cranes. There are only about 450 birds left. So the question is why is the regional director of the Mountain-Prairie Regional Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refusing to use this data? Why is her chief biologist saying the "science was bad" when several other USFWS biologists and an independent review all say this study was the best available science? Why were the two USFWS biologists stationed in Nebraska, who have lead the project from the start, suddenly removed from the project when this new data came to light? Also, why is USFWS in Denver willing to ignore Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by not including the new data in this study? Furthermore, why is NPPD unwilling to use the best available science to protect our endangered species?

I made a two-day trip to Denver, and met face-to-face with these government officials to learn answers to these questions. I was not satisfied with their answers, so I spoke in a conference call with Margaret Everson, the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C. On this call, the regional director in the Denver Office (Walsh) may have been less than honest with Everson. She said her office was considering the new whooping crane telemetry data when just a week ago, she told me to my face in Denver her office was not considering this data and that it was "bad science." Has she changed her mind?

The bottom line is NPPD's R-Project power line could follow another route that doesn't pose a threat to endangered species and we could avoid all these problems, but they refuse to change it. I have been misled every step of the way and I am sick of getting the run around. I am forced to continue up the chain of command. I will travel to Washington, D.C., to speak with the secretary of the interior before the session starts. At the very least, NPPD could do the right thing and insist the whooping crane be made the subject of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study to their project.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628. ❖

 

Proposed Wind Development.jpg

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.

 
 
 
R-Propaganda.jpg

The R-Project

NPPD has distributed their propaganda regarding the R-Project Transmission Line in the local newspapers in hopes of gathering more proponents to jump onto their bandwagon. This flyer will explain how vital this project is and how many have already opted to ‘support’ it. Let’s not be fooled. Educating yourselves is key. This project is not needed nor wanted in the State of Nebraska. NPPD is a public utility company that has monopolized the market in Nebraska with the help of the southwest power pool for export of electricity. approximately 90 miles still need to be acquired in easements of the total 225 miles. their claim of 75% of the easements is deceptive. they are still needing easements for 40% of the land required for this project. there is no mention of the eminent domain or condemnation proceedings on landowners trying to protect their homes. there is no mention of the countless endangered species of birds that they will kill. there is no mention of the cumulative impact that will occur once it is online and the wind and solar farms start to pop up everywhere. there is no mention of the fact that this project is past its proposed operation date by 2 years or that it is currently hundreds of thousands of dollars over their budget of $363 million, but yet they have the funds to distribute propaganda of this sort. there is no mention of the additional $50 million to $100 million that they have just allocated additional budgeting for in november of 2018. who do you think pays for all of this? us. isn’t it time nppd stops bullying us and calling all the shots? they should be answering to us, their customer. after all, they are a public utility, aren't they?

 
Leaking Ainsworth Turbine.jpg

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.

 
IMG_9095.JPG

Personal Property Rights

Property Rights. As a landowner, we have Personal and Private Property Rights. This simply states that I can do what I want on my property, within reason. I cannot infringe upon my neighbors or build something that diminishes value to the area in which I live in and it must abide by the local regulations. Now imagine if your neighbor decides he’s going to build massive 500 to 600 foot tall wind turbines, 147 to be exact, and the developer that he has decided to work with draws a map and decides that, because the area has limited transmission lines to export electricity out, that new lines will be constructed using 200 foot tall lattice towers. These are called feeder lines. Now this map shows that in order to get working in the right direction, they will be built across neighboring, non-participating lands. This is where we found ourselves. Two miles of lattice towers going across our land, without our permission, but thanks to Al Davis, former Nebraska Senator, and his previous legislation, he enacted a law that they could use eminent domain to use our land to suit their needs and we would have no say so. Another kicker was that nobody had the nerve to tell us. Not our neighbors or other neighbors whom are investors, of course, or people we called friends. It was an absentee owner that was surprised that we would even go along with this absurdity. One neighbor states that we can “Agree to disagree, but he has property rights.” Your property rights end at your property line. Plain and simple.

Trees in the Hills.jpg