Letter to the Editor

Senator still misinformed

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dear Editor,

I am very concerned for my fellow Nebraskans in District 44 as well as throughout the state regarding their legislative representation.

Sen. Dan Hughes, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, has again missed the mark in his most recent column in this paper. He misses the mark when he fails to give any credence whatsoever to our State’s finest natural resource. Nebraska is not blessed with scenic mountain ranges or vast expansive wilderness areas that can be traversed only on foot or horseback. We are, however, blessed with the Nebraska Sandhills, which is a relatively pristine grassland with large roadless areas and undisturbed by significant farming activity. The Sandhills are geographically sensitive and extremely fragile. This unfragmented grassland ecosystem is very ecologically important. It is a vital part of the Central Flyway. The Sandhills contain a large groundwater derived wetland ecosystem that is vital to many migratory birds and a number of endangered species. And, most importantly, the Sandhills are unique only to Nebraska. Nothing similar exists anywhere else in the world.

Senator Hughes again misses the mark when he states that transmission lines can only be built on mile or half mile lines. An example is the many lines that parallel state roads and highways which follow geography rather than section lines. These developed corridors are ideally suited for transmission lines. Condemnation and eminent domain are, however, limited to mile and half-mile lines but with many exceptions such as developed corridors and financial constraints of the developer. No one has suggested that the R-Project be placed on a diagonal and certainly, no one other than NPPD has recommended a “cross country” route as currently planned. What has been recommended is a pathway along developed corridors and areas of previously disturbed ground that avoids the Sandhills altogether while still providing to enhance the grid and improve reliability. And, yes, this can be done outside the Platte Valley for increased weather security.

Senator Hughes has also missed the mark on property rights. He forgets that these are limited by their negative impact on neighboring landowners. Wind energy development requires both transmission lines and connecting lines, both of which are placed by NPPD through eminent domain which is seizure of private property with no regard for property rights. NPPD frequently states that most easements are obtained “voluntarily” when, in fact, they are mostly garnered from landowners who feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness given the ever-present threat of condemnation and seizure under eminent domain.

Senator Hughes has also missed the mark on the level of opposition to the R-Project. The “small groups” that he refers to are “Save the Sandhills” and “Preserve the Sandhills” (both of which are on the web and on Facebook). I do agree with Senator Hughes that both groups are enthusiastic. They are enthusiastic about preserving a valuable natural resource as he should also be. As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, he seems to have little regard for natural resources. Both groups are relatively large groups comprised of Sandhill landowners and residents as well as Nebraskans outside the Sandhills and individuals outside the state. Senator Hughes states that “I always enjoy hearing from Nebraskans” yet my call to his office garnered no personal contact by him and to my knowledge he has not conversed with any member of either of these groups.

Anecdotally, my area of the state now has very few pheasants. A fact often lamented by my son-in-law and me. On a recent trip down Hwy 40 while pulling a loaded horse trailer I swerved to avoid hitting a pheasant. I looked at my son-in-law and said, somewhat facetiously, “I know I shouldn’t do that, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the guy who kills the last pheasant in Nebraska”. Senator Hughes, are you going to be that guy? Are you going to kill the last pheasant? Are you going to be that Legislator who stands idly by and lets NPPD sacrifice our states most precious natural resource for industrial wind energy development at the behest of a 14-state consortium? Senator, it’s a pretty thin slice of bacon that has only one side. You need to interact personally with your constituents to hear both sides.

Brent L. Steffen, M.D.

Kearney, Neb.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: