On behalf of a number of Nebraska landowners, we have filed a petition asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) to issue a supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) for the Incidental Take Permit (“ITP”) for the R-Project Transmission Line in north-central Nebraska (the “R-Project”). After the publication of the DEIS for the R-Project, significant new information has come to light concerning the R-Project’s impacts on the environment, wildlife, and historic/cultural resources. In particular, an independent expert hired by the FWS to review the DEIS’s assessment of risk to the critically endangered whooping crane—which was conducted by the project applicant, the Nebraska Public Power District (“NPPD”)—has issued a report highlighting significant flaws in NPPD’s risk assessment, which the FWS relied upon in determining that the whooping crane did not have to be addressed as a “covered species” in the ITP. Dr. Davis’s report therefore raises serious concerns regarding NPPD’s analysis of impacts on a highly endangered species that were not addressed (or even considered) in the DEIS. Additionally, recently developed maps identifying the tracts of land that have been reserved for wind development, and new information regarding the relationship between NPPD and wind developers directly contradict NPPD’s summary dismissal of the impacts of wind energy development as not “reasonably foreseeable.” To the contrary, this new information confirms that the impacts from wind energy development are not only reasonably foreseeable, but are, in fact, fully expected and virtually certain to occur. The maps also demonstrate that the footprint of the R-Project has expanded to an extent not contemplated in the DEIS. Finally, new information regarding the R-Project’s impacts to the Oregon-California Trails—in particular, to the final resting place of a group of gold prospectors who were afflicted with cholera and died on their way to California—was never contemplated in the DEIS, nor were any alternatives to avoid adverse effects to the site. Because new information demonstrates that the R-Project will impact the environment, wildlife, and historic/cultural resources to a significant extent not considered in the DEIS, we have asked the FWS to publish a Supplemental DEIS for public comment before it proceeds further in its consideration of NPPD’s ITP application. You can read our letter here.
Photo credit: Diane Nunley, courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife