What is an easement?
An easement is a legal right to use another’s land for a specific limited purpose, such as constructing, operating, and maintaining transmission lines. NPPD will compensate the landowner for an easement and also pay a structure fee. It’s important to remember that the landowner maintains ownership of the easement area. Although the property owners may continue with their current activities across the easement area, for safety purposes the easement restricts property owners from constructing buildings or structures in the easement area or planting trees or stacking hay under the transmission line. NPPD is responsible for repairing damage incurred during original construction or future maintenance of the R-Project.
What will NPPD do to restore the Sandhills after line construction?
NPPD has constructed, operated, and maintained transmission lines in the Sandhills for many years. One of NPPD’s goals for the entire R-Project is to minimize impacts to landowners’ property. We chose construction methods that are less invasive and are suitable for the particular terrain. Where disturbance occurs that needs to be restored, we will seek landowner input on their respective restoration experiences. We have consulted with a variety of agencies who have restoration experts on staff. After transmission line construction, it is one of our priorities to restore the property to as close to the original state as possible. To do so will require NPPD and landowners to work together closely. In addition, NPPD will have an individual on staff dedicated to right-of-way restoration.
What is the Environmental Impact Statement and how does it affect this project? How is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involved?
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document prepared to describe the effects of proposed federal agency activities on the environment. Portions of the R-Project will go through the habitat of the American burying beetle (ABB), which is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, NPPD has received an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that will allow NPPD to “take” the ABB incidental to the construction of the R-Project.
The USFWS was responsible for completing the EIS. NPPD was responsible for providing project specific information as necessary to USFWS.
A draft EIS was published in the Federal Register for public comment from May 12-July 11, 2017 and from Sept. 8-Nov. 7, 2017. A Notice of Availability (NOA) was published in the Federal Register on February 8, 2019 announcing that the final EIS and associated documents were available for the public to read. The Record of Decision was approved, and the Incidental Take Permit was issued on June 12, 2019.
In July 2019, a group of R-Project opponents filed a lawsuit challenging USFWS’s decision under the ESA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the National Historic Preservation Act. On June 17, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued its decision. While the court found in favor of USFWS and NPPD on several counts, it identified certain discrete errors in USFWS’ decision-making process. The court thus vacated and remanded the ITP to USFWS for further proceedings consistent with the court’s order.
On remand, there is need to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to address the issues identified by the court ruling and to address new information and changed circumstances, as relevant. USFWS has independently selected ICF Jones & Stokes, Inc. to assist USFWS as the NEPA third-party contractor for preparation of the SEIS. USFWS will complete the SEIS, and the public will be involved in the process for completing the SEIS, including public review and comment of the draft analysis prepared by USFWS. (Click to view current information on the SEIS.)
Is NPPD building new roads to deliver material and equipment to construct the line?
No, NPPD does not plan to build roads. Gravel drives will be developed from the existing county road to the fenced-in substation, allowing NPPD vehicles to gain access for maintenance purposes or at the request of a landowner. There may also be some need to make improvements to the existing roads where needed. Existing roads, trails and paths will be used as much as possible. NPPD will have five material storage yards located approximately 50 miles apart along the route. Lattice towers will be constructed on approximately 128 miles of the R-project line and helicopters will be used for portions of tower assembly. Fly yards, which are smaller than material yards, will be located approximately five to seven miles apart along lattice tower sections. To minimize ground impacts, NPPD will use matting, where necessary, and limit access to designated routes.
Is the R-Project transmission line being built to facilitate the development of any specific wind project(s)?
The R-Project is being built for reliability, relief of congestion, and the potential of new renewable energy development if pursued and approved at the local level. The line is not being built to meet the needs of any specific wind developers. Even if no wind energy is ever built, the R-Project is still needed to address reliability concerns and relieve congestion.