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Groene at the Legislature: Questions for wind farm proponentsTell North Platte what you think
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Mike Groene

A promise that I made to you when elected, was to look after the best interest of Lincoln County concerning the creation by four area Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) of their interlocal body, N-CORPE. 

What many of us feared is coming to pass. Ground water levels around the mining operation of water in central Lincoln County has dropped as much as 29 feet since pumping began in early 2014. 

To put that in perspective, it dropped a manageable 14 feet the previous 37 years.

This year, I introduced LB 218, which would require the NRDs to be transparent on the effects of N-CORPE on our local groundwater levels and future management plans. It also defines and restricts future attempts by public or private entities from mining groundwater and removing it from its natural ecosystem, and the bill would force the NRDs to sell the land while maintaining use of the groundwater allotments.

While the bill has received support from the majority of individual farmers and urban citizens I have talked to, it has been vehemently opposed behind the scenes by NRD management employees, mostly from those from NRDs whose boundaries do not lie in Lincoln County.

I have not received a satisfactory answer to my question -- “Why do the taxpayers need to own 20,000 acres in N-CORPE?”  
Instead, the NRDs are pursuing a scheme to pay for N-CORPE’s wasteful management by proposing to contract with a private company to put 140 windmills on public land.

It seems they plan to do so by overriding Lincoln County’s local zoning control, and without the approval of its citizens.

On July 26, there will be an N-CORPE sponsored open meeting on the windmill (wind generators) proposal.

In preparation, I have sent the following letter to the NRDs:

“I am requesting information to address concerns that the citizens of Legislative District 42 (Lincoln County) have brought to me about recent actions your NRD has participated in through its membership in the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (N-CORPE). The issue is your involvement in a contract with HDR (an engineering company) to pursue an agreement with a private wind energy company to erect multiple electricity generating windmills on public property.

Answers to the following questions are needed to address the public’s concerns:

1. What statutory authority gives N-CORPE the right to proceed with this action? The language in the Interlocal Agreement does not state a purpose that would infer the establishment of a wind energy generation project.

2. How are your actions in accord with the State’s purpose for creating the existence of an NRD? What state statutes are you relying on for your individual NRD’s decision to pursue this action?

3. What legal procedure are you planning to use to allow industrial development in an area zoned agriculture by Lincoln County?

4. Has your NRD board taken a publicly recorded vote giving direction as to how your interlocal representatives shall vote on the windmill matter?

5. The Upper Republican and Lower Republican NRD’s boundaries do not include land in Lincoln County. What authority do you believe your NRD has in dictating zoning decisions to elected officials in Lincoln County? It becomes a greater concern for Lincoln County residents that 3 of the 4 N-CORPE board members do not reside in our county.

6. Since establishment of a wind generation area could be considered economic development by a public entity, will there be a public vote seeking approval?

7. HDR, Inc., has been contracted to provide engineering support for the development of the “project.” Since N-CORPE exists to satisfy a state purpose, what funds are used for the payment of this contract?   

In order for Lincoln County citizens, including their State Senator, to knowledgeably participate in discussions on the proposed windmill project during the public comment period on July 26, we would expect to have answers to these questions well before the meeting.

Sincerely, Senator Groene”

Signs along Nebraska Highway 23 say, “Keep our water in Lincoln County.”

Local irrigation and livestock agriculture does exactly that. Likewise, Lincoln County citizens have the right to control decisions on zoning and what industries define their business culture.

I urge you to show up and make your voice heard on July 26.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office, mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729, with any comments, questions or concerns.


Editor's Note:

A public open house will be held from 10 a.m.-noon on Wednesday, July 26 at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte to discuss the project. The WCREC is at 402 E. State Farm Rd.

NCORPE has asked for proposals from prospective wind and/or solar developers, which would be built on some of NCORPE's 20,000 acres of land. NCORPE pumps water from below that land into the Republican River. 

NCORPE is asking for public comment on a proposed wind farm. The comment period will end at the open house, NCORPE has said.

NCORPE General Manager Kyle Shepherd has said, “we are interested to learn more about what the community thinks of this idea, but we also want to provide the community with accurate information about the project.”



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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 7/18/2017
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