The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the time for public comments about the Nebraska Public Power District’s application for a permit to alter the habitat of the federally endangered American burying beetle with the proposed R-Project electric transmission line. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 7, the fish and wildlife service said.
NPPD’s proposed R-Project is a 225-mile long, 345-kilovolt transmission line that would cross portions of the Sandhills in north-central Nebraska.
The R-Project is intended to enhance the reliability of NPPD’s electric transmission system, relieve congestion from existing lines and provide opportunities for development of renewable energy projects, including wind power.
It will also “impact habitat” of the beetle and other protected wildlife, the fish and wildlife service said.
The federal Endangered Species Act prohibits “take” of a listed species, which can be in the form of direct harm or destruction of habitat. However, under the Act, the Service can issue permits for the "incidental take" of endangered and threatened species – “take” that is the unintended result from otherwise lawful activities.
The applicant must design and implement a comprehensive habitat conservation plan that minimizes and mitigates harm to the impacted species.
In NPPD’s plan for the R-Project, the district is proposing to set aside 500 acres of suitable beetle habitat for protection and management.
The HCP also identifies measures to avoid take of other federally threatened and endangered species along the R-Project route, including the whooping crane.
NPPD prepared a draft Migratory Bird Conservation Plan to minimize impacts to migratory birds, which are diverse and abundant along the R-Project route, as well as bald and golden eagles in an effort to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the USF&G said.
NPPD also prepared a draft land restoration plan that details the measures they will voluntarily implement to restore beetle habitat, fragile sandy soils, and other habitats disturbed by R-Project activities.
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project is published for public review. All of the draft documents will be available for public review through Nov. 7 and can be seen at regulations.com
The fish and wildlife service will consider all public comments and analyze impacts to these resources before making a decision on permit issuance. The service will take seriously the public and landowner concerns. The public will be able to submit comments electronically via www.regulations.gov.
Comments will also be accepted via U.S. mail or hand-delivery to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9325 South Alda Rd,, Wood River, Nebraska, 68883.