Commissioners ponder 30 x 30 opposition

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

McCOOK, Neb. — President Biden’s proposal to have 30% of U.S. land and water under federal protection by 2030 is proving unpopular throughout the 3rd district and Red Willow County is likely to join the opposition.

Eric Kamler of U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith’s office told commissioners via telephone Monday that details of the proposal are still being hashed out, but Smith is optimistic that Conservation Reserve Program acres can be counted toward the 30% goal.

“But overall the congressman is still concerned that this is federal overreach and we are demanding to find out more information from the Department of Interior,” he said. He noted that a 90-day comment period would be required after plans are firmed up.

“So nothing’s going to happen overnight, but it’s still a very high concern that we’re keeping a close watch on.”

Dale Cotton of the McCook Army Air Base Historical Society, however, urged commissioners to go slow on a decision, saying it could offer tourism benefits, the same argument offered in support of the separate National Heritage Area proposal. Earlier, during the citizen’s comment period of the meeting, he asked commissioners to consider offering a public transportation service, similar to ones in Frontier and Hayes counties, a service that could also boost tourism, he said.

Chairman Earl McNutt and the other two commissioners expressed skepticism, however, and planned to offer a chance, on an upcoming agenda, for more members of the public to provide input before Red Willow County takes an official stand on 30x30. “I feel the negatives outweigh the positives” of instituting another government program, Commissioner Randy Dean said.

Kamler, who farms near Geneva as well as working for Congressman Smith, said this was the 12th county commission he had met with this month, and almost all of them have considered or passed resolutions in opposition to the 30x30 plan.

McNutt said the 30x30 opposition reminded him of the drive for Nebraska counties to pass resolutions declaring themselves 2nd Amendment sanctuary counties, a step Red Willow County took in March. Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Ricketts declared the entire state as a 2nd Amendment sanctuary state, and McNutt wondered whether Ricketts might do the same to oppose the 30x30 proposal.

In other business, the board:

— Locked in a price of $2.53 a gallon for oil used in paving, from Asphalt and Fuel Supply. David Blau of Miller & Associates said asphalt paving projects would cost about $16,600 per mile, with the county traditionally doing about 10 miles a year. Bids have not yet gone out for this year’s planned projects, one north of Indianola and another south of McCook, and the county wants a recommendation regarding repaving, patching or removing asphalt for a stretch of road south of Indianola.

— Commissioners agreed to a $95,362 contract with Control Masters of Omaha for new cameras and security equipment for the county jail. The company is allowing the county to spread the payments out over three fiscal years, with the final payment Sept. 30, 2022. The contract is separate from a plan being developed by Chief Deputy Joe Koetter to install security cameras in the courthouse.

— Approved a county roadway occupancy permit for Great Plains Communications, which plans to install fiber optic lines.

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