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NPPD awards contract for R-Project line

January 12, 2019

COLUMBUS — During its monthly meeting Thursday, Nebraska Public Power District’s board of directors voted to award a construction contract to Forbes Brothers Timberline Construction, Inc., of Rapid City, S.D. for $264,999,990 for the heavily discussed R-Project transmission line.

While the contract has been awarded, no construction work on the 345-volt transmission line will be conducted until NPPD receives the needed permit for the American Burying Beetle from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That is expected to occur sometime in the first quarter of 2019.

NPPD representatives said the new transmission line is needed to enhance the reliability of Nebraska’s electric transmission system, help relieve congestion of existing lines within the system, and help support renewable energy projects — if approved at the local level.

The line route begins at Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland and then heads north to Thedford where it will connect at an existing substation. The line then will move east to Holt County, covering approximately 225 miles, where it will connect with a new substation to be constructed.

The progress NPPD is hoping for may not occur if a staunch opponent of the project has his way.

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon said he is still working to convince the fish and wildlife service to also require what’s called an incidental take permit for the endangered whooping crane.

“That might cause a delay, but it’s the right thing to do,” Brewer said Thursday.

But NPPD spokesman Mark Becker said the power district and federal officials have both reviewed the potential impact of the R-Project and concluded that such a permit is not needed for whooping cranes.

A 2008 study indicated that there were 45 confirmed whooping crane deaths from striking transmission lines from 1956 to 2006. Most strikes, the report said, occurred during short, low-level flights between roosting and feeding areas.

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