Feds: More time to comment on R-Project transmission line

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August 31, 2017 - 4:10pm

Federal officials are extending the time for people to comment on a controversial transmission line through the Nebraska Sandhills for another two months.

The so-called R-Project is a 225-mile long transmission line the Nebraska Public Power District wants to build from the Gerald Gentleman power plant near Sutherland north to Thedford, then east to Clearwater.

NPPD says the line will alleviate congestion, increase reliability, and allow for wind power development. Opponents say construction will tear up the fragile landscape, and the line and wind farms will destroy unspoiled vistas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide whether to give NPPD a permit because construction will likely kill or harm some American Burying Beetles, an endangered species, and other protected wildlife.

The public comment period was originally supposed to end July 11, but will now be extended through Nov. 7. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Bob Harms said that will give people more time to read and react to nearly 1,500 pages of technical reports. And Harms says a computer glitch in getting to the information also contributed to the decision to extend the public comment period.

“People were having difficulty even accessing it on the internet. They were interested in reviewing the document, but they couldn’t get to it,” Harms said.

For a background story on the R-Project, click here.

Harms said every comment that’s submitted will be considered. He added if NPPD meets requirements, including a plan to minimize and mitigate harm to impacted species, the permit will be issued.

“It’s sort of like going down to the courthouse for a driver’s license. You know, if you’ve got proof of insurance and can pass an eye test, the county’s going to give you a driver’s license. It works the same way with us,” Harms said.

Harms said a final decision probably won’t be made until well into next year.

To submit comments on the R-Project electronically, go to www.regulations.gov. Comments will also be accepted via U.S. mail or hand delivery to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9325 South Alda Road, Wood River, NE 68883  



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