30 March 2015

Comments on Turbine Mitigation for Nebraska

These are comments provided on the draft "Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska" as submitted on March 30th.

Why are wildlife species even mentioned when it is only land being mitigated for, not any deaths due to direct impacts? These deaths are a taking violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in most cases, yet those impacts seem to be ignored. Why is that?

What is the view of a wind development company on these voluntary guidelines? It seems doubtful that a company would consult with NGPC and FWS and then have any need to review these guidelines as well. So, what is the value for them doing so? Perhaps this could be indicated? Their value as a preconsultation tool should continue to be indicated.

Why would a developer go through a voluntary guideline process when they will have to pay administrative fees? This document list four items - from finding to assessment - that any acquisition funds would be used for, and that would simply take funds away from what is most important: habitat conservation. Companies are placing turbines so they can make a profit, not pay fees to someone else!

How can this document have an especially beneficial influence on being helpful to avoid turbine placement in sensitive areas? To be useful, it needs to be more than a repeat of a federal document. Are there state specific issues or concerns that can be given particular attention? It would seem that the wetland resources would be one item, especially fens or saline wetlands...

Mitigation should not be focused on providing conservation easements should rather focus on habitat replacement. A conservation easement does not replace lost habitat so this item should be listed as the last option, not the first.

The option of habitat replacement is discussed in such a limited extent, it should be expanded to provide some details on potential entities that could become owners of mitigation properties and manage them for the long term. There are many potential options. Minimal funds should be used for administrative purposes and the vast majority of funds should be used for acquisition. It is easy to prepare a plan once suitable habitat is acquired.

If a group/agency is going to receive some property because of a mitigation effort, what in-kind contribution can they make. Perhaps there could be a mitigation bank established where certain valuable properties have been appraised and would be available for purchase. This is already being done with wetland fill projects and there is no reason the same can't be done for turbine development?

Why isn't the American burying beetle included as a species sensitive to turbine developments?

The whooping crane priority stopover map perhaps should also indicate critical habitat as already designated by the FWS.

Why is there no reference to the findings by UNL staff as a result of research on turbines and prairie chickens? Are there especially important sites/areas where turbines could be especially detrimental to this species of concern?

How can this document be made useful to landowners with interest/concerns with turbine developments. A state document could be especially valuable to its citizens. How can this document be useful for residents to ensure protection of local resources that find important, and which may be influenced by turbine placement? These topics seem to be missing?

Perhaps an example of an approximate timeline process for a turbine development could be illustrated, so appropriate and adequate preplanning occurs?

Details on how to use the mitigation worksheet might fit better in the appendix where the mitigation worksheet is discussed.

Please take some time to revise the verbiage to streamline the text to make it easier to read. There are too many useless transition words used: lastly, therefore, due to, in addition, etc.

Five sentences in one paragraph and four of them begin with playa, and twice with playa clusters. Whew!

There is no such thing as a "living" document. This is a document subject to review and update as needed (i.e.: "This document is based upon the best").

Informational Meeting Held at Spring Lake Park

With completion in sight, neighborhood residents and others are looking forward to a community setting of park green spaces, improved public access, woodland, wetlands and especially a new 1.5 acre pond at Spring Lake Park in south Omaha.

"This effort is a monument to the people that have worked on this project through the years," said Janet Bonet, president of the Spring Lake Neighborhood Association. She noted that initial efforts began in the 1980s, and that many people involved during those first years are no longer alive. The park will be a place for new generations, she said.

Work on CSO! project features will begin within Spring Lake Park in the next week or two. The biggest project will be excavation of about 25,000 cubic yards of dirt to create the pond, which will be 15-20 deep and stocked for fishing. A 21-vehicle parking lot with a bioretention garden will be placed west of the north end of the pond. The old combined line through the lowland north of F Street will either be removed or suitably abandoned.

Work is already underway on provided the drainage tube under F Street for the pond. Progress of the boring has been hindered some by a historically constructed structure which was buried within the embankment.

Other attendees asked questions and made suggestions. One idea was to get project participants to cooperate on a "final cleanup" to remove all the tires and trash before the park reopens, following the completion of the current construction phase.

Once the public can reuse the park, we "need to have a community effort to keep trash and tires out," Bonet said, and "build ownership of being good stewards of the park and its neighbor."

Soon, the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department and the project construction company will be posting regulatory signs to indicate it is illegal to enter portions of the park where work is underway. Rather than closing the entire park, a suggestion was made to mark only particular areas (i.e., with something like "Construction Area - Keep Out" rather than the more exclusive "Park Closed" signage as was mentioned by officials), so other sections of the park can continue to be visited. The second option was affirmed by members of the audience.

Officials associated with the project provided these details and others - including an update on street closures including the status of now closed southern extent of Spring Lake Drive - at an informational meeting at the clubhouse of the park golf course on Saturday morning, March 28th. Besides about twenty community members, also present were representatives from the community outreach organization, the contractor Roloff Construction, the project design company (HDR) and Omaha Public Works. Following the inside gathering, about a dozen people took advantage of an outside view of the project from F Street, south of where the pond will be built.

Work is beginning in the park since sanitary line construction has been mostly completed in the adjacent neighborhoods, construction officials said. This work included the construction of five below-street features that will capture grit, trash and other debris from the streets, before it can wash into the park. These containment structures will be periodically cleared out by Public Works.

As part of the project, about 4300 pounds of illegally discarded tires were hauled away within the past couple of weeks, after having been gathered during the previous months. Several other sites which have been long-term piles of discarded material on private property at the park's western fringe have also been cleaned up.

A bid for the initial landscaping efforts is expected to be selected in later April by the city of Omaha. Plans are to plant a variety of trees, perennials and ground cover, and wetland plants at outlying parks and a southern portion of Spring Lake Park. The majority of plantings within the park will occur in 2016.

Construction of this Phase One portion of the CSO! project will be completed by autumn 2015, or early in 2016. Phase Two is expected to then begin in 2018, with an initial public meeting in the autumn of 2015.

Tree Plantings 2015

These are the deciduous (14 species), understory (four species) and coniferous (four species) trees to be planted in 2015, according to the preliminary plan issued by Public Works:

  • Spring Lake Drive in the southern extent of Spring Lake Park (34 deciduous trees): northern red oak, American sentry linden, shingle oak, accolade elm, prairie pride hackberry, triumph elm, bur oak, kentucky coffeetree and thornless honeylocust
  • Twenty-third Street and Interstate 80 right-of-way (seven trees): northern red oak, bur oak, chinkapin oak and black hills spruce
  • J Street and 12th Street (one tree): bur oak
  • Missouri Avenue to Gibson Road (53 trees and 32 understory on the east side of 13th Street): swamp white oak, northern red oak, tulip tree, American sentry linden, shademaster honey locust, chinkapin oak, triumph elm, shingle oak, eastern redbud, autumn brilliance serviceberry
  • Rudy Novacek Memorial Garden (five deciduous trees and six understory trees): triumph elm, goldenrain tree, Japanese tree lilac, autumn brilliance serviceberry
  • Bob Campos Soccer Complex at 33rd and Q Street (17 coniferous and deciduous trees and eleven understory trees): bur oak, tuliptree, accolade elm, black hills spruce, autumn brilliance serviceberry, eastern redbud
  • James F. Lynch Park at 21st and Martha Street (53 deciduous and coniferous trees and six understory trees): northern catalpa, swamp white oak, tulip tree, northern red oak, prairie titan kentucky coffeetree, American sentry linden, shademaster honeylocust, concolor fir, norway spruce, douglas fir, black hills spruce, eastern redbud, autumn brilliance serviceberry, Japanese tree lilac
  • Spring Lake Park golf course (31 total trees): shademaster honeylocust, tulip tree, American sycamore (five), American sentry linden, norway spruce, concolor fir, black hills spruce (four), autumn brilliance serviceberry and eastern redbud

Bird Variety

There were sixteen species of birds noted during a pre-meeting jaunt among the north F Street portion of the park. Most notable were the many male Northern Cardinals - vivid in their bright red plumage - and a single Brown Creeper and the vibrant song of a Carolina Wren.

23 March 2015

Bryophyte Survey of Northern Nebraska in 1985

A natural history survey was conducted at select areas of northern Nebraska in June 1985. Items of information collected included bryophytes and vascular plants, with records of bird sightings also maintained.

It has only been recently that the bryophytes have been identified and properly placed in the herbarium at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Special recognition needs to be given to Robert Harms of Omaha for his identification of the stored specimens which have been saved by professor David M. Sutherland for all these years.

This is a list of species that were collected, and for which notations were suitably kept, including the substrate on which they were found.

Rock County: at "Mariaville" along Hwy 138 at the Niobrara River; 11 Jun 1985.

Amblystegium serpens (Hedwig) Schimp.

Barbula unguiculata Hedwig

Brachythecium acuminatum (Hedwig) Austin

Brachythecium acutum (Mitt.) Sullivant

Brachythecium campestre (Mül. Hal.) Schimp.

Conocephalum conicum (L.) Underwood

Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Homomallilum mexicanum Cardot

Hygroamblystegium varium (Hedwig) Mönk.

Leptodictyum riparium (Hedwig) Warnst.

Leskea gracilescens Hedwig

Plagiomnium cuspidatum (Hedwig) T. Kop.

Pohlia wahlenbergii (Weber & D. Mohr) Andrews

Ptychostomum creberrimum (Taylor) R. Spence & P. Ramsay

Timmia megapolitana Hedwig subsp. megapolitana

Tortula mucronifolia Schwägr.

Rock County: at "Mariaville" along Hwy 138 at the Niobrara River 12 Jun 1985.

Hygroamblystegium varium (Hedwig) Mönk.

Pohlia wahlenbergii (Weber & D. Mohr) A. J. Andrews

Keya Paha County: at Thomas Creek Wildlife Management Area; 14 Jun 1985.

Brachythecium campestre (Müll. Hal.) Schimper

Brachythecium laetum (Brid.) Schimp.

Ceratodon purpureus (Hedwig) Brid. (mixed with a sterile Bryum)

Conocephalum conicum (L.) Underwood

Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Hygroamblystegium varium (Hedwig) Mönk.

Mnium thomsonii Schimper

Plagiomnium cuspidatum (Hedwig) T. Kop.

Pohlia wahlenbergii (F. Weber & D. Mohr) A. L. Andrews

Timmia megapolitana Hedwig subsp. megapolitana

Cherry County: at Anderson Bridge Wildlife Management Area, from Kilgore 5 ½ mi S, 2 mi E, and 5 mi S.; 15 Jun 1985.

Amblystegium serpens (Hedwig) Schimp.

Brachythecium campestre (Müll. Hal.) Schimp.

Brachythecium sp.

Ceratodon purpureus (Hedwig) Brid.

Conardia compacta (Hooker) H. Robinson

Concephalum conicum (L.) Underwood

Cratoneuron filicinum (Hedwig) Spence

Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Funaria hygrometrica Hedwig

Hygroamblystegium varium (Hedwig) Mönk.

Leptobryum pyriforme (Hedwig) Wilson

Leptodictyum riparium (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Plagiomnium cuspidatum (Hedwig) T. Kop.

Pohlia wahlenbergii (F. Weber & D. Mohr) A. J. Andrews

Syntrichia ruralis (Hedwig) Wilson

Sheridan County: Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area; 20 Jun 1985

Amblystegium serpens (Hedwig) Schimp

Brachythecium acuminatum (Hedwig) Austin

Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Drepanocladus aduncus (Hedwig) Warnstorf (approaching D. polygamus)

Hygroamblystegium varium (Hedwig) Mönk.

Leptodictyum riparium (Hedwig) Warnstorf

Pseudocampylium radicale (P. Beauv.) Van der Poorten & Hedenäs

10 March 2015

Utility District Slovenly With Carthage Project

The Metropolitan Utilities District has been doing a slovenly job while replacing a gas line in the Carthage neighborhood of east Omaha.

Issues do not concern the gas line work, but the associated measures needed to ensure public safety and retain values appreciated by the residents.

Especially problematic has been the lack of working lights on barricades, placement of proper barriers for holes in the streets, notice of street closures and spreading of dirt on streets and sidewalks.

In order to document instances of these issues, time on two recent evenings was spent to evaluate the situation. The following items only represent the status on recent days, while these conditions have been present for the past two or three weeks.

March 6, Friday Evening

  • 1011 North 49th Street: light on one of the two barricades on the sidewalk not working
  • northwest corner of 49th and Nicholas streets: one barricade light not working at a deep hole where a flimsy plastic barrier was the only thing in place to inhibit any possible accidents for vehicles or pedestrians that could fall into the hole
  • 1109 North 49th Street: lights on two barricades on the sidewalk not working
  • 1111 North 49th Street: lights on two barricades not working
  • 49th and Caldwell Streets at the southeast corner: light on barricade not working
  • general area at 49th and Hamilton streets: nine lights on barricades not working, with one barricade fallen to the ground, and another covered with a paper sack
  • southwest corner of 50th Avenue and Hamilton streets: light on one barricade not working, and another light not working on barricade to southeast
  • 1309 North 49th Avenue: light on one barricade not working

Overall, there were at least 19 barricades with nonworking lights. These conditions continued throughout the weekend.

March 9, Monday Evening

  • 1011 North 49th Street: light on one barricade along the sidewalk not working
  • northwest corner of 49th and Nicholas Street: two no working at street excavation
  • 1101 North 49th Street: light on one barricade along the sidewalk not working
  • 1103 North 49th Street: light on one barricade along the sidewalk not working
  • 1109 North 49th Street: light on two barricades along the sidewalk not working
  • 1111 North 49th Street: light on two barricades along the sidewalk not working
  • southeast corner of 49th and Caldwell streets: light on one barricade not working; this is a site where after doing an excavation, the remaining dirt was just shoved into a treed area and into a pile, with no effort to shape the dirt to conform to the adjacent terrain
  • 1301 North 49th Street: light on one barricade not working
  • general area of 49th and Hamilton streets: lights on eight barricades not working; one barricade was lying on the ground; an extent of 49th street, which has been reopened, is a dirty mess and will be a muddy mess with the next precipitation
  • 48th Avenue and Hamilton Street: one barricade with the light broken off; light on three barricades not working; one barricade fallen to the ground; and a safety hazard, a ca. ten foot hole with no barrier fence surrounding it to help ensure an attention to be safe to avoid falling into the hole, either by vehicles or pedestrians ... a cement barrier should have been suitably placed at the site to ensure safety for traffic
  • 4906 Hamilton Street: light on one barricade not working
  • 50th Avenue and Hamilton streets: light on one barricade not working
  • 1309 North 49th Avenue: light on two barricades not working
  • 1205 North 49th Avenue: light on one barricade not working
  • 1109 North 49th Avenue: light on four barricades not working

During this foray, there were at least 30 barricades where the light was not working.

Hamilton Street remains closed to all traffic in either direction. There has been no found indication or notice to the residents of the neighborhood that this street closure would occur, nor any details on how long this thoroughfare street would remain closed.

March 10, Tuesday Evening

There were fewer barricades present because the repair work on some of the sidewalks had been completed.

  • northwest corner of 49th and Nicholas street; two of eight barricade lights not working
  • southeast corner of 49th and Caldwell: one of one barricade light not working
  • 1310 North 49th Street: one of one barricade light not working
  • 49th and Hamilton streets area: three barricade lights not working; one barricade light covered with a sack; one barricade fallen over; light on one large street barricade not working
  • 48th Avenue and Hamilton streets: light on one barricade broken; lights on two other barricades not working
  • 4844 Hamilton Street: two of four barricade lights not working
  • 4906 Hamilton Street: two of seven barricade lights not working
  • 4912 Hamilton Street: one of three barricade lights not working
  • 4916 Hamilton Street: one of one barricade light not working
  • 50th Avenue and Hamilton Streets: one of four barricade lights not working
  • 1205 North 49th Avenue: two of three barricade lights not working
  • 1109 North 49th Avenue: five of five barricade lights not working
  • 1107 North 49th Avenue: one of three barricade lights not working

Slovenly conditions continued, with about 25 lights not working or simply broken.

March 11, Wednesday Evening

  • 1011 North 49th Street: noticed that the concrete delivery truck washed out its chute and left the mess along the street curb after its delivery of concrete for the sidewalk repair
  • northeast corner of 49th and Nicholas: three of eight barricade lights not working
  • southeast corner of 49th and Caldwell Street: one of one barricade light not working; there are also two sheets of plywood and another piece of wood that have been left behind by the workers and are nothing more than trash along the street
  • 1310 North 49th Street: one of one barricade light not working
  • 49th and Hamilton streets: one of four barricade lights not working; four of five barricade lights not working; five of nine barricade lights not working; for the large street barricades, two of the three lights were not working
  • 48th Avenue and Hamilton streets: three of six barricade lights not working; two of eight barricade lights not working; there is still no barrier around the big hole in the street
  • 4844 Hamilton Street: one of four barricade lights not working; there are also two 4x4 holes with a ca. eight foot depth which have no barrier fence
  • 4906 Hamilton Street: three of six barricade lights not working; there is also a ca. 10x10 hole with a ca. eight foot depth without a barrier fence
  • 4912 Hamilton Street: one of three barricade lights not working
  • 4916 Hamilton Street; one of one barricade light not working
  • 50th Avenue and Hamilton streets: one of four barricade lights not working
  • 1205 North 49th Avenue: two of three barricade lights not working
  • 1109 North 49th Avenue: four of four barricade lights not working
  • 1107 North 49th Avenue: one of one barricade light not working

There were about 36 busted or non-working lights, so conditions have worsened. What is even worse, there are multiple deep holes where there are safety concerns since there are no barrier fences being used.

The Metropolitan Utilities District is responsible for suitably indicating hazards and avoiding safety issues, as it is their wok site, and hey have hired a company to be responsible for the condition of the barricades. MUD is obviously doing a slovenly job, and this is despite having informed workers at the site about the situation. Any communications were a waste of time, because nothing changed.

This is no way for a company to deal with residents of a neighborhood.

Subsequent to the second outing, details were once again sent to the chairman of the board for the Metropolitan Utilities District, as well as to the mayor of Omaha and press outlets.

A reply was soon received from a vice-president of MUD, that the barricade light outage situation would be dealt with, with particular focus on getting them into working order.

Conditions did improve, with many unworking lights changed and/or broken barricades replaced. And thankfully, the work was beginning to wrap-up and crews were leaving Carthage to go to some other neighbor to disrupt the setting as they are wont to do!

March 24-25th: P.M. and A.M. Visit

It had been some time since taking a look at the barricade and barrier conditions, so an evening visit was first made. The dark of night had not descended enough to be certain on the working condition of the lights, so a pre-dawn visit was made Wednesday.

This is a summary of findings:

49th and Nicholas
street repair done but sidewalk being fixed - lights on seven barricades working, and it was also working on the one fallen to the ground
49th and Caldwell
sediment barriers properly working but the light on the barricade is not blinking
49th and Hamilton Streets
south hole: three lights working, with one barricade having fallen over
hole at intersection: lights on three standing barricades working, with two barricades having fallen over; the plastic barrier fence was half fallen over
at hole along sidewalk to east along Hamilton Street, there were six barricades with the light on one not working
48th Avenue and Hamilton Streets
one barricade fallen over; eight others were working, as placed around two large piles of dirt and concrete rubble unnecessarily placed in the street
4914 Hamilton Street
lights on two of three barricades working
4920 Hamilton Street
one of two barricade lights working
4951 Hamilton Street sidewalk
one of one light not working
corner of 50th Avenue and Hamilton streets
two of six barricade lights not working
near 50th and Hamilton streets
two of two lights working

The intersection of 49th and Hamilton Streets was not yet closed, as apparently the rainy Tuesday delayed the work. Once blocked, it was projected to be closed for a week.

The rain did make the thrown about dirt a muddy mess. It had to be removed from shoes several times, and some is still crusty on my soles.

April Situation

Utility work continues in the Carthage neighborhood. And the slovenly work by a contractor for the Metropolitan Utilities District is still obvious.

Another look at the barricade situation was done during early night on April 4th.

These are the particulars...

1009 North 49th Street: three lights of four on barricades working at the hole in the street

49th and Nicholas Street: seven working with one laying on the ground

The barricade lights along the sidewalk area of 1102 to 1106 North 49th Street were all working.

At 1108 North 49th Street, there were plastic cones in place where elsewhere there were barricades with lights. It was the same at 1110 North 49th Street. The reason for this difference is not known.

At 49th and Caldwell streets there were five barricades, with two working, one not working and two useless as they were fallen upon the ground.

Next upon the route of the early night at 1302 North 49th Street there are two places, with three working at one and one of two working at the second place.

To the east, about 48th Avenue and Hamilton streets, at the corner eight of nine lights on the barricades were blinking in the night time. To the west on the south side of the block, just one of four lights were working. On the north side of Hamilton, four of four barricade lights were operational.

Westward along Hamilton street, at the southwest corner of the 49th street intersection, five of five barricade lights worked. At 4916 Hamilton, five of six lights were working at a deep barricaded hole.

At the southwest corner of 49th Avenue and Hamilton Street, four of five lights worked.

At 50th Avenue and Hamilton Street, there were nine barricades with seven working, one not working and one useless on the ground.

The final locale viewed was along north 49th Avenue. At the 1316 address, there were five barricades, but only two were suitably working.

There are a few places where straw on the dirt indicates that the work is done, and something was put in place to get grass reestablished.

08 March 2015

More About Birds and Windfarms

By Marilyn McNabb. March 2015. Babbling Brook 24(3): 5. Used with permission.

The National Audubon report on climate change and birds gives the grim news that about half of the bird species in North America will be at risk of extinction by the end of this century if we pursue business as usual with green house gas emissions. We know we have to make lots of changes, and quickly.

Despite the fact that the relative proportion of the cause of bird deaths by windfarms compared to cats compared to cell and radio towers is about 1 to 8 to 23, we need to do as Audubon chapters have done across the country and keep a careful eye on windfarms' effects on birds and bats. In addition to collisions, windfarm roads and towers may cause damage by fragmenting habitats, creating migration barriers, introducing alien species, and disturbing or displacing wildlife.

Bird Fatalities

In a presentation January 7 to citizens in Cortland worried about the effects of a windfarm in the early planning stages, Carolyn Jezierski, Wind Energy and Wildlife Project Coordinator at UNL, said that so far, because they want to be (or at least appear to be) environmentally sensitive, wind developers have generally participated constructively in discussions with the state.

Both federal Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) standards are voluntary, but USFWS has the power to sue if a completed project is violating the laws it enforces. Given the enormous potential for wind development in Nebraska, these negotiations could get more contentious as the numbers and pace of wind installations increase. Conflict has sharpened at the national level.

In late December, the USFWS took PacifiCorp Energy to federal court in Wyoming for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal investigators found the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds at two PacifiCorp wind projects. The Wildlife Service says it had made recommendations earlier to PacifiCorp which were ignored. Priority for enforcement in court by USFWS is given to projects were built in defiance of Fish and Wildlife recommendations. PacifiCorp has agreed to pay $2.5 million in fines and restitution, with most of the money going toward mitigation efforts to reduce bird deaths.

Bird deaths at wind turbines

Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC), introduced a bill in January to attack the legal basis for USFWS's authority which rests on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act. It's so extreme it probably doesn’t have much chance to pass as proposed, but it alerts us to the likelihood of attempts to weaken federal enforcement power. The source of this push is almost certainly oil and gas companies which are subject to much more stringent enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treat Act than wind and solar farms. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the leading contributors to Rep. Duncan's 2014 campaign were oil and gas companies.

Bill would gut bird protection laws

Nebraska is in the middle of a public comment period on a 33-page document called "Mitigation Guidelines for Wind Energy Development in Nebraska.”

The deadline for comments is March 31 and should be emailed to windwildlife@unl.edu. I hope some Audubon folks can submit comments.

Mitigation guidelines

The Guidelines classify Nebraska into minimum, moderate, and maximum mitigation areas. This classification, along with a site visit, helps determine the state's recommendations for mitigation ranging from no action at all to purchasing a similar piece of land to be protected.

It is interesting to compare federal rules on the same subject. See Final U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines. The federal rules are much more comprehensive. For example, the federal rules tell developers when they should begin consulting with the agency, direct what methods and metrics to use in their field studies, and require two levels of studies of bird deaths to be done after the farm is operational.

FWS guidelines

As I read the proposed "Mitigation Guidelines," there is no provision for public review except very late in the process where NGPC makes a recommendation to the Power Review Board to approve or disapprove a project. It appears the two agencies perform their negotiations with developers behind closed doors. At no point, even after a windfarm is built, is there provision for public access to the agreements made by the state agency with the developers. It appears the Guidelines are written by wildlife experts with wind developers in mind as the audience. But the public has a stake in these outcomes as well. I'm hoping some Wachiskans can propose how some degree of public involvement might work.

06 March 2015

Iske Place to be New River Greenspace

The final approval of contracts to purchase the last parcels of riverside property will result in a new green space along the Missouri River in southeast Sarpy County.

The former Iske place is located on the west side riverbank, a short distance north of the Platte River confluence, and north of the Highway 34, Platteview Road bridge over the Missouri River.

"After the structures are demolished, the property will be restored to open, green space," said Amanda Grint of the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District. "We expect that we should have the structures removed by fall 2015."

The area encompasses 34 acres.

"We have restrictive covenants on the uses due to the federal grant," said Amanda Grint of the NRD. Beyond following those conditions we do not have plans at this time and cannot answer your specific questions."

Questions asked were:

  • Will the property be open to the public? And when?
  • What will be the official name of the property?
  • Will hunting be allowed?
  • How will it be managed?

"We see a value to removing people from flood risk and also to restoring open space along the river however no management goals have been set at this point," Grint said in latter February.

A federal grant program was one essential reason the NRD pursued purchase of the property, Grint said. The Papio-Missouri NRD will move ahead on efforts to revert the area from a housing development to green space, once they close upon the property.

A "hazard mitigation grant" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of the $1.5 million cost of property acqisition. A 12.5 percent of the cost is funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The remaining 12.5 percent will be paid for by the NRD, the City of Bellevue and Sarpy County.