VALENTINE — The "R-Project" has been a highly controversial project since its introduction to the public in 2013. There has been a public outcry against this project in the Nebraska Sandhills from people all across the nation, and in fact, comments have been made in opposition to the project’s route from those living in other countries that have seen what a treasure Nebraska has within the undisturbed Sandhills region!
The primary reason for the opposition to the project has been because of the fact that it is such a large transmission project (225 miles of 345kV transmission lines, from Sutherland, up to the Thedford area, then across to the Neligh area to connect to the WAPA line for exporting energy into the SPP, outside of Nebraska). The 93 miles of the project’s route is slated to go through the unique, and environmentally sensitive, Nebraska Sandhills. This includes the area around Chambers that has the sub-irrigated hay meadows, renown for their production of prime prairie hay. Within this 93 miles of exceeding concern also lies many of the early homesteads of Nebraskans, whose extended families still live on the original claims, and are now being threatened by eminent domain.
The transmission line is not following existing roads in the 93 miles mentioned, but simply crossing across land that is not easily accessed, requiring even more land acquisition by NPPD in order to have "access routes" for the construction and continued maintenance, for perpetuity.
Six years after the "R-Project" began trying to gain a foothold in the area described, there still remains approximately 20% of the landowners who have not signed easement agreements, representing 31% of the miles of the project (70 miles). Many of the landowners who have signed say that they felt like they had no choice, or quite simply gave up after so much pressure from the NPPD’s sub-contracted "right-of-way land agents," who work for a group known as "Universal Field Services," headquartered in Oklahoma. The landowners who strongly feel that this is a government overreach by a quasi-government entity representing the federal transmission group, the Southwest Power Pool, (SPP), are now facing frequent badgering by NPPD and its subcontractors, to give up their land willingly.
The USFWS is currently involved in a lawsuit that challenges their approval of the R-Project’s route, and NPPD cannot actually finish this project until that court case has been resolved. Currently, NPPD remains active in trying to accomplish its goals by having its subcontractors (groups from businesses headquartered in Idaho and South Dakota), doing what minimum construction and preparation it can do as it waits, gambling on the hope that the USFWS case is ruled in NPPD’s favor. That does not give NPPD the right to trespass on landowners who have not signed an easement agreement.