COMMENTS ON PROPOSED NEBRASKA TRANSMISSION LINE

On Monday, on behalf of directly affected landowners, we submitted extensive public comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) concerning its consideration of a request by the Nebraska Public Power District (“NPPD”) for an Incidental Take Statement (“ITP”) and Habitat Conservation Plan (“HCP”) for the R-Project Transmission Line in north-central Nebraska, a vitally important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The transmission line will have significant adverse impacts on protected species, including the American Burying Beetle and the Whooping Crane, both of which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the fact that FWS identified alternate routes that were technically and economically feasible, as well as far less environmentally harmful, FWS summarily dismissed the routes from detailed analysis in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”), citing the delay that such consideration might cause. Additionally, NPPD ignored the best available science when it refused to treat the whooping crane as a covered species in its HCP, submitting a risk analysis that severely underestimates the collision risk that the Project poses to whooping cranes. In our comments, we explained to FWS that it is legally foreclosed from rejecting reasonable and practicable alternatives that would lessen the adverse impacts on imperiled species merely because there might be some delay in implementation. We also submitted detailed comments and an expert analysis on the flaws in NPPD’s whooping crane risk analysis, and demonstrated that the Project will result in the killing and injuring of whooping cranes although NPPD has not sought any authorization for such take. The comment letter also address the FWS’s failure to meaningfully assess the Project’s impacts on migratory birds, bald eagles, and historic and cultural resources and conclude that FWS should deny the ITP application and explore less environmentally destructive alternatives. Our comments can be found here.