Between the Lines
After nearly a year-long routing and public involvement process, the final line routes and substation site for the Hoskins-Neligh 345,000-volt transmission line project have been identified. The project consists of building an approximate 39-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line from NPPD’s Hoskins substation located southwest of Hoskins to a new substation in the Neligh area. In addition, four 115,000-volt transmission line segments will be routed from the new substation to existing lines.
The project will enhance transmission system reliability, relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, provide opportunities for interconnection of renewable energy resources, and help meet irrigation demand.
Since announcing the need for the Hoskins-Neligh project last fall, NPPD met with stakeholders, performed field studies, reviewed maps, and held three rounds of open house meetings in Norfolk and Neligh. In August, NPPD hosted four public hearings, one each in Stanton, Norfolk, Neligh and Pierce. Each public hearing was preceded by a one-hour open house.
“Our goal throughout this project was to identify the most suitable line routes,” said Columbus Project Manager Jedd Fischer, “and we could not have done that without landowner input. We received excellent participation at the open houses with landowners providing details about their property.”
While final routes and a substation site have been identified, public involvement in the process will not stop. “We’re going to continue working closely with landowners throughout the construction process,” said Fischer. “Their input will help us determine how best to minimize impacts to their property.”
Now that final line routes have been identified, NPPD right-of-way agents are meeting with landowners to obtain right-of-entry agreements, which allow for on-site surveys and detailed engineering. NPPD opened a field office in Tilden in early October. The field office, located at13 East 2nd Street, houses the right-of-way agents for this project and provides a place for landowners to get questions answered.
Line construction is set to begin in 2015, and the line is scheduled to be in service by the spring of 2016.
NPPD plans to construct a 345,000-volt transmission line from Gerald Gentleman Station north to a new substation in or near the Cherry County area and then east to a new substation to be constructed in either Holt, Antelope or Wheeler County. Referred to as the R-Project, the approximately 220-mile-long line has benefits similar to the Hoskins-Neligh Project and will help enhance operation of NPPD’s electric transmission system, relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects.
A broad study area of where the R-Project transmission line could be located was shown during the first round of open houses in January. A second round of open houses took place in September, and during those meetings, the public saw the study area had been narrowed to corridors and also saw areas where the substation could be located. The corridors (shown in white in the below map) were a highlight at each of the six open houses which were held in Thedford, Sutherland, Dunning, Stapleton, Burwell and Bartlett. A total of 369 landowners and interested parties attended the open houses to discuss the corridors, as well as structure and foundation types, right-of-way acquisition, the need and benefit of the project, and more. The project team is in the process of reviewing all public comments.
“Land restoration is a priority for landowners regarding this project,” said Columbus Senior Project Manager Craig Holthe. “Because of this, we have enlisted the help of a restoration expert from the University of Nebraska to help determine what methods will work best in this area of the Sand Hills.”
A third round of open houses is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2014. At those meetings, a preferred and alternate route(s) will be reviewed. Then, in the fall/winter timeframe, public hearings will be held and a proposed route will be discussed with the public. Tentative plans are to announce a final route sometime next winter, with the route energized by Jan. 1, 2018.
In August, the NPPD Board of Directors unanimously approved a pair of resolutions to restart NPPD’s 115-kV electric transmission line project to provide electric power to wholesale customers at TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL crude oil pumping stations in Nebraska.
Keystone’s adjusted pipeline route means some changes in NPPD’s original project scope. For example, as best as can be determined from a preliminary review of the revised pipeline route, the miles of transmission lines NPPD will need to build, although still comprising three distinct lines in north central and central Nebraska, are reduced to approximately 20-22 miles from the originally proposed almost 75 miles.
And while some of the initial work done for NPPD’s first go-round of the Keystone XL transmission line project can be used to supplement a new plan, work will still need to be done to engineer, design, identify and select a transmission line route, complete a thorough public involvement process, procure materials, purchase and clear right-of-way, and build the lines.
“TransCanada has asked us to proceed with this project, and we are obligated to comply,” said Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “Completing a transmission line project from start to finish takes considerable time. While we have in place some information and planning from the initial work done on this project, we will not shortchange our commitment to landowners and those who may be affected by the new transmission lines. We believe public involvement is an important component when building a transmission line, and that is not going to change.”
As with the first work done on the Keystone X project, TransCanada is responsible for the cost of all electric facilities required to serve its pipeline, and TransCanada has reimbursed and will continue to reimburse NPPD for project expenses.
In September, Kent, Columbus Senior Project Manager Mike Hasenkamp and other NPPD representatives met with public and county officials in Clarks for a public outreach meeting addressing the electrical needs of a pumping station to be located southeast of Fullerton. Two weeks later, on Oct. 9, the first open house for the project “restart” was held in Fullerton to provide the public information about the new transmission line while gathering input from landowners.