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Sen. Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

My entire staff and I went to the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission meeting at Fort Robinson this week. Thanks to the Commission and its staff for being gracious hosts. I also want to thank the many citizens who took time out of their busy day to fill the conference room and show that Nebraskans care about property rights and responsible stewardship of our land and wildlife.

I requested time on the agenda to speak to the whole Commission on the record. I explained to them why they should withdraw their favorable endorsement of NPPD’s R-Project power-line. Nebraska law requires a favorable endorsement from Game & Parks for projects proposed by our public electrical utilities. The R-Project received this approval from the Commission back in 2014. In that approval letter, the Commission pointed out that the project was subject to further review if there was new information about the project and its impact.

I reported to the Commission that we have discovered a lot of new information since 2014. The data they had at that time was often sparse and badly dated. Today we have mountains of new telemetry data and recent ecological studies that biologists can use to analyze the impact of the R-project will have on endangered species. The commissioners listened with interest and seemed genuinely curious to learn more. After the meeting, Jim Lambly at KSDZ radio kindly interrupted his regularly scheduled programming to let me update the public on this important issue.

Since I first began working on this issue in 2017, it has become very clear to me that the science used to determine the environmental impact of this power line has serious problems. In many cases it is very old and incomplete. In some cases, I believe the evidence has even been intentionally manipulated to support the claim the powerline will not cause “take” (death) of the endangered whooping crane. Federal government employees have had their jobs threatened if they spoke out about their work.

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There are only about 600 whooping cranes left. Over 90 percent of them migrate along a route that crosses the R-project. The leading cause of death in migrating whooping cranes is collisions with power lines. I provided the commission with new data and studies that clearly shows there will be “take” of these birds. We owe this information serious study without an NPPD lobbyist putting their thumb on the scale.

Before we ride roughshod over property rights and forever deface the most sensitive and beautiful part of Nebraska’s natural heritage, the very least we can do is properly study the latest and best information science can offer. I had the opportunity this week to get to know the commissioners better; they know Nebraska and love it like I do. I hope they will take this opportunity to withdraw their favorable endorsement of the R-project. We know better now.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

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