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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Environmental Impacts of Proposed Transmission Line in Nebraska

On October 30th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will assess the natural and human effects of issuing a permit to authorize the take of the federally endangered American burying beetle. The NOI initiates a 60-day comment period for the public to review and comment on any of the topics to be addressed inthe EIS. Comments can be provided electronically by accessing http://www.regulations.gov/. The comment period will end December 29, 2014.

The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has requested that the Service issue this permit because the construction, operation, and maintenance of its proposed 220-mile long, 345 kV transmission line is likely to impact the American burying beetle. As a requirement of permit application, NPPD is preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to identify avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures for the American burying beetle.

Beyond analyzing the impacts on the American burying beetle, the EIS will also consider the effects on a broad range of other resources. These include other fish and wildlife species, geology and mineral resources, soil and water resources, air quality, land ownership and use, recreation, transportation, socioeconomics, visual resources, noise, cultural and paleontological resources, hazardous materials, and public health and safety. The Service is also interested in learning about the presence of archaeological sites, buildings and structures, historic sites, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic preservation concerns in the proposed project area. The Service also seeks information about the direct, indirect, or cumulative effects that implementation of the HCP could have on any of these resources, as well as the beetle. The Service is also seeking information about other reasonable alternatives to the proposed HCP and permit issuance that should be considered and their potential effects.

The Service is holding three public scoping meetings where information about the EIS, HCP and American burying beetle will be provided. Any interested party or organization is welcome to provide comments at the meetings. The public scoping meetings will be held at the following locations:

American Legion—November 18, 2014, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 657 G Street, Burwell, NE 68823;

Village Municipal Offices—November 19, 2014, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 1200 First Street, Sutherland, NE 69165; and

Thomas County Fairgrounds—November 20, 2014, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 83861 Highway 83,Thedford, NE 69166.

A copy of the draft NOI can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/, http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/ne.html, or by contacting:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nebraska Ecological Services Field Office

9325 South Alda Road

Wood River, Nebraska 68883

Alternatively, copies can be requested by phone: 308–382–6468.

 

 

 

Wetland project in Rock County to be featured on wetland tour

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rock County rancher Roy Stewart are inviting the public to tour a wetland restoration project on his property Nov. 6 from 11 AM - 12:30 PM. NRCS Area Engineer Bob Atkeson said this project is special and something to be proud of.

"Roy worked long and hard with NRCS and our partnering agencies to get this wetland restoration just right. He deserves credit for sticking with the process to create a wetland on his property that went above and beyond a typical wetland restoration," Atkeson said.

Stewart first approached NRCS about assistance with restoring the wet meadows on his ranch. When the meandering streams in the south fork of the Elkhorn River were straightened, the water started to flow faster. This increased speed caused the channels to cut deeper. When the channels became deeper, this drained the shallow ground water, causing the wet meadows to no longer be as wet as they used to. This caused Stewart's hay production to drop significantly.

NRCS engineers worked with Stewart to develop a wetland restoration plan that would reduce the erosion of the channels flowing through his ranch. Atkeson said, "Several grade stabilization and stream restoration techniques were used in this project to restore hydrology to the sub-irrigated meadows on the Stewart Hereford Ranch."

This restoration has helped the Elkhorn River and wet meadows once again function together as a healthy system. Atkeson said, "This project is unique since it occurs along a stream channel. Other producers in the area who have lost hay land production may be interested in coming to see how Roy's project works."

The tour is free and open to the public. Meet at the site six miles south of Newport, Neb., on county road 875 at 11 AM. Contact Bob Atkeson at the O'Neill NRCS field office at (402) 336-3796 ext. 3 for more information.

 

Kiddie Parade this Friday at 4

The Valentine Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the annual Halloween Kiddie Parade this Friday at 4pm. The parade will begin at the Bull Market Beer and Grill and head north on Main Street to the corner of 4th and Main. Participants should gather at Bull Market, by 3:45 to prepare for the event. Kids are invited to gather around the Justice Center area for fun games and activities after the parade. Dozer's Games will be on hand to let the little ghosts and goblins try their hand a video games. Merchants are also encouraged to prepare for trick or treaters  after the parade.

   

Nebraska still using questioned guardrails

Nebraska officials say they will continue using a highway guardrail system that has been the focus of safety concerns until the Federal Highway Administration says it shouldn't.

Trinity Industries' ET-Plus guardrail system has been used in Nebraska since 2005 mostly on interstates and freeways.

In the last five years, there have been 107 accidents involving ET-Plus guardrails and three deaths in Nebraska, but the Roads Department has no evidence the system malfunctioned.

A Texas jury on Monday issued a $175 million award in a lawsuit brought by a Trinity competitor and whistleblower who charged that end caps on the Trinity ET-Plus guardrails can malfunction and pierce a vehicle.

Trinity disputes the ruling, and federal safety experts are retesting the system.

 

Mountain Lion Spotted near Valentine Fish Hatchery

On 10/24/14, a confirmed sighting of a young mountain lion was reported near the Valentine Fish Hatchery.  The mountain lion fled the area east, away from the hatchery.  If you see a mountain lion, reports can be made to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Division or Conservation Officers.  Notification can be made to local law enforcement as well.

 

   

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