Nebraska Public Power District, (NPPD, headquartered in Columbus, Neb.) held the first phase of informative open houses on its proposed 345,000-volt Transmission Line. This line, once constructed, will be approximately 220 miles long connecting the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland to the 345,000-volt transmission line owned by the Western Area Power Administration of the federal government.
Early settlers referred to the Sandhills as a ‘wasteland and desert, void of livability.’ Looking at a Nebraska map, when it comes to high voltage electricity, it is still void. NPPD wants to correct that problem so when Mother Nature disrupts the power, smaller areas will be affected.
NPPD refers to this project as “the R-Project.” The benefits are at least three fold, “1) It will help enhance operation of NPPD’s electric transmission system, 2) relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, and 3) provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects,” stated Pat Pope, NPPD president and CEO in the welcoming video at all the open houses. Due to the drought and heat of 2012, NPPD saw the demand for power at a level it was not expecting to see for the next 10 years.
The open houses were conducted in mid-January at McPherson County High School, in Tryon, American Legion in Hershey, Eppley Lodge at the State 4-H Camp in the NE National Forest near Halsey, the Bullseye Building in Mullen, the Community Center in Chambers and the Conference Center in Ainsworth.
These sites were chosen as their counties lie within the scope of the project. As a brand would read, picture a lazy L, comprising the counties of Lincoln, McPherson, Hooker, Thomas, Cherry, east to Blaine, Brown, Rock, Loup, Garfield, Wheeler and Holt. NPPD had on hand at these meetings some 20 staff and directors who, after the welcoming video, were at various stations in the room to explain the multi-phase project. Randy Samson, one of the Project Managers, explained the electrical system as it is now. “In Nebraska, electricity flows mainly west to east, along the Platte River and I-80 for the most part. Gerald Gentleman Station at Sutherland is the largest power plant in our system, producing 1,365 megawatts (MW) of power through coal. NPPD also has nuclear, natural gas and diesel, hydroelectric, as well as renewable energy from its wind farms. NPPD is a partner member of the Southwest Power Pool, a multi-state regional transmission organization.” Randy explained in further details the three benefits listed above.
At the next station, Craig Holthe explained the public involvement process and the proposed timeline. “These meetings are the first, gathering all the information and comments from land owners, local, state and federal government agencies and interested residents, after which all the data collected will be analyzed and a second round of open houses will be conducted with the projected corridors in the fall of 2013. In 2014, a third round of open houses will be held followed by a public hearing later that year. In 2015 the final route will be announced. Right of entry will begin shortly thereafter. Construction will begin in 2016 and the line will be energized by January 1, 2018.
At the next station, Larry Linder, Environmental Compliance Specialist with NPPD, explained the need for access in the study area in order to complete various surveys, including possible surveys related to threatened or endangered species that may be in the study area. He had pictures of four examples of threatened or endangered species which included the American Burying Beetle, the Blowout Pentsemmon, the Whooping Cranes, which also represents other species of birds that utilize the Central migratory flyway, and the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. Orchid surveys are best conducted while the flower is in bloom. The Orchid has a blooming time of only a few weeks, so information from landowners and others telling him where they may have seen the Orchid is useful. “Completing such surveys on a project that may be as long as 220 miles in a span of a few weeks will prove interesting.” Other items to consider are where windbreaks, center pivots, pipelines, and of course buildings are located.
Those aspects were expounded upon at the next station when landowners sat down with mapping specialists at their computers to update land boundaries, buildings, pivots, etc. Copies were then printed out and given to the owners.
After the mapping process, Tom Pillen gave the scope needed to obtain easements and right of way permits. “Typically there will be four structures per mile, which when in place, a total of 24 acres per mile will be utilized for easement.” Figuring the math of the 220 mile line, that is 880 structures utilizing 5,280 acres.
At the last station, Clint Endsley, engineer, discussed the various poles that could be used.”The typical single pole utilizes only a 7 foot foundation, and is used around row crops, etc. The H-frame has a lower profile. The lattice is lighter and more flexible and is the most efficient.” ❖