After 14 months of a comprehensive public involvement process, NPPD is hosting a series of public hearings to present the public with a proposed route for a new 345-kV transmission line. Those public hearings will be held in Schuyler, Columbus, Lincoln, Seward and David City, Nebraska.
A robust economy; residential, business and industrial expansion; ethanol plants (both operating and under construction); an increasing number of irrigation wells being powered by electric energy; and a new crude oil pipeline – these are just some of the factors leading to Nebraska Public Power District’s decision in mid-2006 to build the new transmission line between Columbus and Lincoln.
Called the Electric Transmission Reliability for East-Central Nebraska Project, NPPD announced plans for the line more than a year ago. Project Manager Craig Holthe, who is overseeing the transmission reliability project, estimates he and the project team have spent about 6,500 hours specifically siting the new 80-mile transmission line. The team has hosted public meetings, collected data, spoken with numerous agencies, studied information, performed field studies and listened to the public.
Ed Wagner, NPPD’s Vice President of Customer Services & Delivery said, “NPPD is confident we have performed due diligence identifying the proposed route for the new transmission line.” Numbers support Wagner’s statement. Over the past year, NPPD has hosted 28 official meetings with the public. These include three rounds of open houses, four meetings each round, in Platte, Butler, Seward, Saunders and Lancaster counties. NPPD sent out 15,000 invitations to the open houses and about 1,000 invitations to other public meetings with local business and industry leaders and elected officials. In addition, NPPD advertised the open houses in area newspapers and posted flyers in local communities before each round of meetings. More than 1,000 people attended the project open houses to provide information and make comments. The two most often stated comments from the public were to lessen impacts from the new line to residences and agriculture.
In response to this input, NPPD chose to utilize steel, single-pole structures throughout most of the line route and to follow existing transmission line routes, where possible.
“The single-pole structure minimizes the footprint of the structure,” said Project Manager Craig Holthe, “and we are able to place it close to the section or half-section lines. Also, by double-circuiting where we can, we lower the number of ‘new’ impacts.”
A double-circuit line is where two separate power lines, for example an existing 115 kV line and the new 345 kV line, share the same structure. For the transmission reliability project, the 115 kV line will be on one side of the pole, and the 345 kV line on the other side.
“Several of our decisions to lessen the impact to property owners, utilizing single-pole construction and double-circuiting, for example, will increase the cost of the project slightly,” Wagner said. “NPPD is obligated to do whatever we can, within reason, to minimize impacts for property owners. This is certainly a case where a few are being asked to do what is good for the many. Throughout this process, I’ve been greatly encouraged by people’s willingness to step forward and work with us.”
Alternatives to the proposed route have been suggested by some landowners who may be impacted by the transmission line project. “We’ve taken everything we’ve been told very seriously,” Wagner said. “We’ve looked at possible alternative routes. The route has to go somewhere,” Wagner stated. “If we move the route, the line will still impact someone.” The proposed route has fewer impacts to residences and agriculture than any of the alternative routes identified.