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First week of Power Drive competition crowns four schools with top honors

March 30, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – The 2015 Power Drive competition started off a five-race series Saturday morning when schools competed in the Cuming County Open at the Cuming County Fairgrounds in West Point.

The first week of competition saw champions crowned in four different classes.

In the Standard Class, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kennedy High School took top honors by completing 65 laps in the 90-minute endurance race. A second team from Kennedy finished as runner-up, also completing 65 laps, and third went to Elkhorn High School with 58 laps.

Wayne High School won the Advanced Class by completing 80 laps, with Elkhorn High School taking second with 77 laps completed, edging out Bancroft-Rosalie by approximately 45 seconds.

Also topping the Exhibition Class was Wayne High School with 74 laps completed with Elkhorn High School in second with 50 laps. In the Novice Class, Syracuse High School took top honors by competing 71 laps.

Next up in the competition, following a weekend off due to the Easter holiday, will be Saturday, April 11 with the Big Red Invitational on the East Campus at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The event will be staged on the test track at the Tractor Test Laboratory. Competition begins at 11:30 a.m.

In Power Drive, teams compete in a series of endurance rallies, using light electric vehicles. The annual competition is co-sponsored by the Omaha Public Power District and the Nebraska Public Power District. The series will culminate at Werner Park in LaVista where the Power Drive Championships will be held Saturday, May 2.

Power Drive gives high school students hands-on experience building a safe, energy-efficient electric vehicle. Teams have designed and built electric-powered vehicles during the school year.

With stormy weather on the horizon NPPD urges safety around downed power lines

March 27, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – Weather on the Great Plains of the United States can be unpredictable in the spring. A snow storm one day, 70’s the next day, followed by the threat of tornadoes, an annual occurrence in this region.

Nebraska Public Power District, in observance of the state’s Severe Weather Awareness Week is urging Nebraskans to be vigilant of these changing weather conditions and to be prepared in the event of power outages due to spring storms.

“In 2014, we had numerous tornadoes that took down power lines in the central and northeast parts of the state during May and June. We had 228 transmission towers and numerous smaller distribution poles damaged during those months, leaving hundreds of customers without power,” said NPPD’s Distribution and Transmission Manager Joel Dagerman. “Our crews respond as quickly as they can to restore power, but we emphasize safety in adverse weather conditions for our line crews which is extremely important.”

One of the by-products of severe spring storms can be downed power lines. Tornadoes can bring down transmission lines in rural areas, but trees damaged by tornadoes or high winds can come down on local distribution lines, creating an outage over several blocks or an entire community. “We urge the public to avoid downed power lines, consider them to be live, and do not attempt to move them. It is important to allow trained linemen from NPPD or other electric utilities in the state to safely move any power lines to avoid the possibility of electrocution,” Dagerman added. “We also ask that if a power line is down across the roadway do not attempt to drive over it.”

He also pointed out that if a person driving in a car has a power line fall on it to remain in the car until power utility personnel arrive on the scene. If that is not an option due to a fire or other unsafe conditions, jump clear of the vehicle and shuffle approximately 20 feet away, keeping your feet together and on the ground.

When weather conditions are anticipated or begin to worsen, NPPD crews prepare for emergency response and will have trucks fueled up, equipment readied and awaiting to restore any power outage.

But there will be a period of time before crews can restore power, depending on the extent of damage.

If the power goes out, turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace. Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when your power returns.

If the power should go out due to storm conditions, please report the interruption to NPPD via 1-877-ASK-NPPD (1-877-275-6773) or your local public power provider.

18th annual Power Drive competition kicks off competition with the Cuming County Open March 28

March 20, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – Student designed. Student built. Student driven.

Those are just some of the hallmarks for teams set to compete in the 18th annual Power Drive competitions for high school teams from Nebraska and neighboring states, as a five-meet series of competitions begin this Saturday.

The initial Power Drive competition of the spring begins Saturday, March 28, with the Cuming County Open scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Cuming County Fairgrounds in West Point, Neb. Similar competitions will be held in Lincoln, Grand Island, Hastings, and LaVista this spring.

In Power Drive, teams compete in a series of endurance rallies, using light electric vehicles. The annual competition is co-sponsored by the Omaha Public Power District and the Nebraska Public Power District. The series will culminate at Werner Park in LaVista where the Power Drive Championships will be held Saturday, May 2.

Power Drive gives high school students hands-on experience building a safe, energy-efficient electric vehicle. Teams have designed and built electric-powered vehicles during the school year. After building their vehicles, student drivers test their creations against other teams in several categories: braking ability, endurance, maneuverability and overall design/construction. Instructors report the program boosts academics, school spirit and community interest and support.

Many schools seek local business sponsorships and affix logos to their vehicles with the businesses names, much like NASCAR.

Through Power Drive, students are challenged to do the following:

  • Apply classroom lessons to produce a one-person light electric vehicle (LEV);
  • Work as a team with other students to build the vehicle from the ground up;
  • Design and engineer the LEV to roll safely and efficiently;
  • Use problem solving skills; promote efforts in the community to gain support;
  • Compete against other schools to see whose vehicle performs best;
  • and, document their efforts.

Bancroft-Rosalie is the defending champion in the Standard Class from last year with Columbus Lakeview the overall competition’s winner in the Advanced Class in 2014.

A combination of points earned in competitive endurance, design engineering, and documentation supplied by each competing school determines the winners at the finals. Points are awarded in each category of Standard, Advanced and Exhibition, and combined to tally a final score.

Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) began offering the Power Drive program to high schools in its service territory in 1998. Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) became a partner in 1999 and began encouraging schools in the central and western parts of the state to participate. Programs similar to Power Drive are currently operating in 28 states.

Schools that have registered, thus far, to compete in this year’s series of competitions include: Adams Central, Bancroft-Rosalie, Beatrice, Bellevue East, Bellevue West, Chase County, Cedar Rapids Kennedy (Iowa), Cedar Rapids Prairie (Iowa), Central City, Clearwater-Orchard, Douglas County West, Dorchester, Deshler, Dundy County, Elkhorn, Friend, Harvard, Howells-Dodge, Iowa School for the Deaf, Columbus Lakeview, Millard West, NCK Technical College (Kansas), Northwestern Area School District (Mellette, S.D.), Pleasanton, Pocahontas Area (Pomeroy-Palmer, Iowa), Raymond Central, Seward, Stanton, Syracuse, Wahoo, Wayne, West Point-Beemer, and Winside.

The complete 2015 Power Drive Schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday, March 28 – Cuming County Open, Cuming County Fairgrounds, West Point, Neb. Check-in and inspections begin at 8 a.m. with the endurance competition starting at 10 a.m.
  • Saturday, April 11 – Big Red Invitational, East Campus, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Check-in and inspections start at 9:30 a.m. with racing scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, April 18 – Drive Safe Challenge, Law Enforcement Training Center, Grand Island. Competition starts at 11:30 a.m. with the awards presentation at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 25 – Hastings Power Drive, Motorsports Park-Hastings, Hastings. Competition begins at 10 a.m. and awards at 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 3 - Power Drive Championships, Werner Park, LaVista. Three heats of competition begin at 10 a.m. with the awards presentation at 2 p.m.

To keep updated on activities, “like” the Power Drive Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PowerDriveProgram.

NPPD announces final route for transmission line

March 17, 2015

Stegall to Scottsbluff project

Scottsbluff, Neb. – After a more than one-year routing and public involvement process, Nebraska Public Power District has selected a final line route for its Stegall to Scottsbluff Transmission Line Project that will enhance system reliability in the western Nebraska panhandle region.

Landowners along the route were notified recently of the routes.

The project consists of constructing a 115,000-volt electric transmission line approximately 23 miles from the existing Scottsbluff substation to a new NPPD substation to be built approximately five miles south of Stegall near the existing Stegall substation owned by the Basin Electric Power Cooperative. There will be a short 345,000-volt transmission line built between NPPD’s new substation and Basin’s existing Stegall substation.

Since announcing the need for the Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line project about a year ago, NPPD met with stakeholders, performed field studies, reviewed maps, and held three open houses in Gering – one each in January, April and August of 2014. A public hearing, required by state statute, was held this past January in Gering.

NPPD representatives reviewed the comments provided at the public hearing and after, as they continued to study the possible line routes. It was determined the proposed route communicated at the hearing was the best route.

“First, I’d like to thank the landowners for their feedback during the public involvement process,” said Project Manager Jedd Fischer. ”We had excellent participation from landowners whether in person, by phone or via written communications. By letting us know of any future plans for their land or any special circumstances, we were able to make better, informed decisions. Our goal throughout this project was to find the best possible line route and substation site with the least overall impact to landowners. We believe the process has resulted in identification of a good route.”

Now that final line routes and substation site have been identified, property owners along the final line routes can expect an NPPD representative to contact them regarding the next steps of the project. The representative will seek to schedule a “kitchen table” meeting to discuss all important project information. These meetings will allow individual landowners to ask questions, provide valuable property specific information, and provide notice regarding land use to the project team.

Additionally, survey crews will be doing preliminary work along the routes. Results from these surveys will assist in determining the final location of structures on each property.

Line construction is set to begin in the fall of 2016.

(Editor’s Note: a downloadable final line route can be found at www.nppd.com/assets/stegall/finalline.pdf)

 

Muddy Creek to Ord transmission line open house events scheduled for March 24, 25 in Broken Bow, Ord

March 13, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – Three alternative routes and substation sites will be presented for public input during two upcoming open houses March 24 and 25, as part of Nebraska Public Power District’s Muddy Creek to Ord 115,000-volt transmission line project.

This will be the third open house on the project by NPPD since September 2014. Since then the project team has been reviewing public comments and meeting with various agencies while working to narrow the previously announced corridors down to three alternative routes. Senior Project Manager Mike Hasenkamp noted, “Although we have identified three alternative routes for this project, no final route has been determined. This open house will be another opportunity to gather additional comments from landowners before making a final line route determination.”

The Tuesday, March 24 open house will be held at the Broken Bow City Auditorium, 314 S. 10th Avenue, in Broken Bow, and the Wednesday, March 25 session will be held in the Exhibit Hall at the Valley County Fairgrounds, 801 S Street in Ord. Hours for both open houses will be from 2 to 8 p.m., and attendees should allow 45 minutes to walk through the displays, provide input, and interact with NPPD representatives.

The Muddy Creek to Ord 115,000-volt electric transmission line project will run from a new substation, to be called Muddy Creek located near an existing transmission line northeast of Broken Bow, to an existing substation near Ord. The location of the new Muddy Creek substation is yet to be determined and the route of the line is estimated to be 42 miles in length, and no route has been determined. This transmission line project will address voltage and loading issues in the immediate area and meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Reliability Standards for the central Nebraska area.

“We continue to have good turnout for the open houses by landowners and other interested parties,” said Hasenkamp. “Any landowners who were unable to attend the first two open houses and want to comment on their specific property are encouraged to come to this open house.”

The new line will play a vital role in enhancing the reliability of the transmission system in central Nebraska where electric load continually grows. In July 2012, a prolonged period of high temperatures combined with drought-like conditions, resulted in NPPD setting a record for peak electrical load needed by customers of 3,030 megawatts. The result was that NPPD’s transmission system in the central part of the state was stretched to the limit during the record load period.

Over the past two years, NPPD has temporarily located additional mobile generators in the central part of the state during the summer months in order to help maintain reliability of the transmission system. NPPD plans to have mobile generators in place again this summer.

The need for the line was identified through the Southwest Power Pool’s transmission planning process, which is performed annually to assess system upgrades. The approximately $34 million transmission line project is expected to be in service in the summer of 2018. Along with the transmission line work, the project also includes upgrades to the existing Ord substation and construction of a new substation east of Broken Bow.

For more information on this project, visit the website at www.nppd.com/muddycreek-ord, send an email to powerline@nppd.com, or call the project hotline at 1-888-677-3412.

Construction traffic between Neligh and Norfolk will increase as transmission line project begins

March 13, 2015

Neligh, Neb. – There will soon be more heavy trucks on the roads between Neligh and Norfolk as Nebraska Public Power District begins construction of approximately 40 miles of a 345,000-volt transmission line.

The line will be built several miles north of and generally parallel to U.S. Highway 275. When completed, the 345,000-volt line will run between a substation located on the northeast edge of Norfolk and a substation northeast of Neligh.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said NPPD’s Project Manager Jedd Fischer. “By spreading the word about increased traffic, we hope to avoid accidents.”

In addition to the 345,000-volt line, construction will also begin on four 115,000-volt transmission line segments (20 miles total) emanating from the Neligh substation.

Siting of the new lines followed a comprehensive, one-year public involvement process. NPPD is completing preliminary activities in preparation for construction. Materials necessary for construction are slated to begin arriving at the construction site in mid-March.

The first step in construction will be digging and then pouring concrete for foundations for single-pole, self-supporting steel structures that will compose the new lines (approximately 175 for the 345,000-volt line and 30 for the 115,000-volt construction.)

Foundation work is scheduled to begin at the end of March and continue through the fall. Work will, generally, start on the west portion of the new line and then progress east. Foundation dimensions will vary, with a significant number of foundations supporting 345,000-volt structures about 7 feet by 9 feet in diameter.

The new 345,000-volt line will average four structures per mile. Average structure height will be 150 ft. Structure erection is scheduled to begin this summer, with an in-service date for the line expected to be in May 2016.

NPPD warns customers about phone scams around Ogallala; gives tips for what to do and what to ask

March 6, 2015

Columbus, Neb. –There have been an increased number of phone scam incidents reported this week to the Nebraska Public Power District by NPPD customers. Incidents in the Ogallala area have prompted NPPD to advise all customers to be wary of suspicious calls.

Customers have reported receiving scam calls from individuals stating that they are with ‘the electric utility’ and they are collecting for a past due amount on an electric bill. They state the bill must be paid immediately or the power will be shut off. Sometimes the scammer’s caller-identification is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company, a practice known as ‘spoofing’.

To help customers be wary of such scams, NPPD offers the following tips and suggestions:

  • NPPD, as a business practice, does not call to ask customers for a credit card number.
  • NPPD does not demand payment with a pre-paid card.
  • Any customer receiving such a call should not attempt to make payment over the phone.
  • Write down the call back number or consider asking where the caller is located.
  • Contact law enforcement.
  • Let NPPD’s Centralized Customer Care Center at 1-877-ASK-NPPD (877-275-6773) know about the call.
  • If served electrically by a rural public power district or municipality, customers should contact that organization before providing any type of payment.

Keep a little green in your wallet with LED rebate program

March 6, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – Are you looking for a way to lower your electric bill and keep a little green in your wallet?

 Nebraska Public Power District and its wholesale customer utilities are once again providing incentives to residential electric customers for the purchase and installation of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Keeping a little green in the wallet is actually simple. Participating electric utilities will provide customers with a $5 account credit for each 60, 75, or 100-watt LED equivalent to the standard bulb they purchase. Each residential account will have available up to 15 credits this year, increasing by five the number offered in 2014. Customers can purchase these LED lamps wherever they desire, but the package should be identified as ENERGY STAR® qualified.

So a little cash stays in the wallet and at the same time, LEDs in turn reduce the amount of electricity used and help keep that electric bill down.

In recent years, LEDs have taken the lighting industry by storm. Simply put, an LED is a chip of semiconducting material that releases energy in the form of light. LEDs are used just like ordinary bulbs.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program encourages installation of LED lamps that use 75 to 80 percent less energy than equivalent incandescent light bulbs and last up to 35 times longer. LEDs do not contain mercury, which eliminates some disposal concerns.

LED lamps offer additional advantages over compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which have long been touted as energy-efficient alternatives to standard light bulbs. LEDs illuminate instantly when their power switch is turned on. Their light output is not diminished in cold weather. In fact, LEDs last longer in cold areas. LEDs offer a variety of color temperatures that allow customers to match the appearance of standard incandescent bulbs or the bright white of most office environments. Many LED lamps are dimmable, but customers should confirm this prior to purchase, as manufacturers are required to indicate whether they are or not on the packaging.

The LED campaign will run through the end of December 2015. To receive the incentive, customers submit a completed program application along with a copy of their sales receipt to their local electric utility, but must do so within 90 days of purchase.

A brochure containing the program’s application form is available on NPPD’s website, www.nppd.com/assets/2012incentives/led/brochure2015.pdf.

Robots battle Saturday at Kearney VEX tournament

January 28, 2015

Kearney, Neb. – With team names like “Nuts and Bolts”, “Gonna Need a Bigger Bot”, and “Roboom”, a unique competition will be staged this Saturday in Kearney.

The Kearney High School VEX tournament will be conducted Saturday at Sunrise Middle School, 4611 Avenue N in Kearney, beginning at 11 a.m. The tournament involves the use of student-created robots in a competition setting. The event is being hosted by the Nebraska Public Power District and is free and open to the public. Awards will be given to teams in various categories that include tournament champion, tournament finalist, and special awards for excellence, programming skills, robot skills, design, and sportsmanship.

The VEX Robotics Program is a competitive academic activity designed to inspire students to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Teams are tasked with a new challenge each year and must analyze, design, build, program and test their robots in relation to a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test on the playing field as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communication, problem solving, and more. From November through February, teams compete in tournaments to hopefully qualify for a spot at state, nationals and world competitions.

A total of 30 teams, representing Ravenna Public Schools, Crete High School, Omaha North Magnet School, Chase County Schools, Cross County Schools, Millard North, Norfolk, Lakeview, Grand Island, and Kearney high schools are scheduled to compete Saturday.

This year’s challenge, VEX Skyrise, is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot square field. Two alliances – one “red” and one “blue” – composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a fifteen second autonomous period, followed by one minute and forty-five seconds of driver controlled play. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by scoring with colored cubes in floor goals, on posts or on Skyrise, by owning posts, and by building Skyrise sections.

“In addition to just having a great time and building amazing robots, this program helps students learn and understand the engineering, technical and programming skills needed in building a robot, plus develop teamwork skills, leadership and sportsmanship,” explained NPPD Outreach Programs Specialist Kim Liebig. “NPPD’s interest in sponsoring an event such as VEX Robotics is that we support the program’s education of engineering principles, since we employ engineers of various disciplines – from mechanical to nuclear engineering.”

While participating in the VEX Skyrise season, teams develop new skills in response to the challenges and obstacles that stand before them. Some problems will be solved by individuals, while others will be handled through interaction with their student teammates and adult mentors.

Earlier in the school year, teams first worked together to build a VEX robot to compete in one of many tournaments like the one being staged in Kearney. After the season is completed later this spring, students come away not only with the accomplishment of building their own competition robot, but also with an appreciation of science and technology and how they positively impact the world around them.

Competing teams Saturday will be attempting to qualify for the Nebraska State Championship to be staged in Stromsburg in February and for the U.S. Open Championship to be held at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, April 7-9. Winning qualifiers from the U.S. Open Championship will go on to the VEX Robotics World Competition to be held in Louisville, Ky. April 15-18 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

NPPD announces final R-Project transmission line route

January 26, 2015

Columbus, Neb. – Nebraska Public Power District announced today the final line route for its R-Project 345,000-volt transmission line that will meet reliability needs of the Nebraska transmission system and reduce congestion on the existing system. The line will also provide new transmission capacity to address future renewable generation.

Landowners along the route were notified of the final line route this week, completing a nearly two-year long process. NPPD conducted 26 open houses and meetings with the public, held eight public hearings, and accepted more than 2,500 comments during the routing process. In total, nearly 1,800 individuals attended the various open houses and hearings. The District completed state required public hearings in November and has reviewed input from those meetings in determining the final route. The final route was chosen after considering all comments received throughout the entire public process.

The line will run north from NPPD’s Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, to the existing Thedford substation that will be expanded to support the new transmission line and transformer that will interconnect with the underlying 115,000 volt system at Thedford. The line will then run east towards Holt County to a new substation that will be constructed connecting into an existing Western Area Power Administration 345,000 volt transmission line.

The District will begin to contact landowners to gain right-of-entry into private property during the next step of the process.

“The right-of-entry is very important for the project and the landowners,” explained NPPD Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “This gives NPPD an opportunity to gain access to property and work closely with landowners in determining very specific issues regarding siting of structures. Without that access, we will have to determine locations for structures based on aerial photography, and once we have the structures engineered, there may be lost opportunity to make changes to further improve structure locations to address a landowner’s specific issues.

“The earlier we can obtain a right-of-entry, the better for landowners in identifying specific issues and determining locations of the structures with their assistance. In using aerial photography, we can be extremely accurate in siting structures, but getting a better understanding of potential land use in the future from landowners helps the process.”

Kent explained that NPPD’s public involvement process was intended to determine the most suitable route while minimizing impacts to landowners. In developing the final route, the District has reviewed more than 2,500 comments from landowners and various agencies. Determination of the line route was based on established line routing criteria that included proximity to occupied residences, towns and villages and other amenities, the impact to farming and ranching operations, plus land use, environmental, engineering and construction criteria.

“Gathering information from landowners has been extremely helpful because some specific issues were identified that have led to changes in the route as we have gone through the process of moving from a study area to the final line route,” Kent pointed out.

Kent explained that the proposed route initially had some changes from what was announced in April and May of 2014, resulting in avoiding a private airstrip, reducing the number of homes in proximity to the line, gaining improved access for construction, having fewer shelterbelts in the right of way, and avoiding new Wetland Reserve Program properties, while adding length and angles to the 220-plus mile project estimated to cost $361 million.

The District plans to use a combination of steel poles and lattice-towers. The steel poles will typically be used on sections of the project that have relatively good access, or are near established roads and in cultivated fields. The lattice towers will be installed on the sections of the project that have limited access. The lattice towers were selected because they minimize impacts to the fragile soils due to the options they provide for construction. For example, the lattice towers can be erected with helicopters which negate the need to have a large crane at each site and helical pier foundations rather than concrete foundations.

“There have been concerns about restoring the Sandhills after construction,” said Kent, who noted that NPPD has hired a grasslands expert to consult on the restoration work. “NPPD has built transmission lines through the Sandhills over the years and has successfully constructed and conducted maintenance on these lines many times. Our approach to restoration is first to avoid and minimize damage during construction, perform the necessary mitigation, and gather input from stakeholders on the restoration work.

“Besides subject matter experts who will advise us on restoration, we are counting on landowners to tell us what they have faced and done in the past in restoring blowouts in this area. We do understand that it will take some time to restore damages resulting from construction of the line, but we intend to continue working with the landowners to restore the land as best as we can.”

An easement compensation plan with landowners has been established utilizing payments based on 80 percent of the appraised land value plus structure payments. “We intend to conduct good faith negotiations on compensation with landowners,” he added.

Right of entry is expected to begin in February and continue through July 2015, while engineering design for the project is expected to last into 2016. Easement acquisition is expected to run from September 2015 through February 2017. Line construction will follow starting in February 2017 with initial restoration activities running through November 2018. The line is planned to be in-service by September 2018.

The need for the line was identified by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in its Integrated Transmission Plan. SPP, which NPPD is a member of, is a regional transmission organization that is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure adequate transmission capacity is planned, and reliable operation of the transmission system is provided in the SPP region.

NPPD rate payers will pay seven percent of the costs of the project as part of its SPP membership, but will also pay a similar cost for projects in other locations in the SPP footprint for new transmission lines 345,000-volts and higher.

(Editor’s Note: A map of the final line route is available at http://www.nppd.com/assets/rproject/finalroutemap.pdf.)