AP NEWS

Feds release statement on transmission line set in Sandhills

February 10, 2019

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its final environmental impact statement on what a 345,000-volt transmission line through the Nebraska Sandhills could mean to habitat for the endangered American burying beetle.

The release Thursday began a 30-day period for public inspection . The service said it will then decide whether to issue a permit that would allow incidental violations of the Endangered Species Act. Documents are available by appointment at the service’s Nebraska field office in Wood River.

The habitat lies along the 225-mile (362-kilometer) path of Nebraska Public Power District’s R-Project line. The line would start near the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland and extend to a new substation near Thedford.

NPPD has said the line would alleviate congestion, increase reliability and allow for wind power development.

Opponents have said construction would disrupt wildlife and cultural gems and that wind farms associated with the proposed line would destroy unspoiled vistas.

The Endangered Species Act bars the “take” of a listed species, but the act also allows the service to issue permits for the “incidental take” of endangered and threatened species. But those seeking permits must design and implement a comprehensive habitat conservation plan that minimizes and mitigates harm to the species during the proposed project.

NPPD has prepared a habitat conservation plan for the beetle as well as a conservation plan to minimize impacts to migratory birds such as whooping cranes. The R-Project construction would permanently remove 33 acres (13.4 hectares) and temporarily disturb 1,250 acres (506) of the beetle habitat over the 50-year term of the permit.

The district would commit to protect at least 500 acres (202.3 hectares) of occupied beetle habitat in Nebraska.

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Information from: KUCV-FM, http://netnebraska.org