In a ruling filed Wednesday, June 17, 2020, a Colorado Federal Judge vacated a key permit for Nebraska Public Power District’s R-Project, the 225-mile high-voltage transmission line, citing it’s potential impact on a key Oregon Trail Landmark in Lincoln County as one of its reasons.  The ruling overturned an “incidental take permit” issued in June 2019 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to NPPD regarding the impact to the endangered American burying beetle. 

The ruling stated federal law was not followed in the process used to issue the incidental permit needed for the project. The ruling also state that this has been an unusually complicated case, which has been in planning stages for 8 years, and that the court had to “bushwhack for weeks through the thicket” to come to the conclusions in the Judge’s 116-page opinion that: 

  • the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — which issued the permit — “inadequately considered the effects of the R-Project on the O’Fallon’s Bluff segment of the Oregon and California Trail” near Sutherland.
  • the agency failed to analyze “potential wind-turbine development” in Antelope County, near the line’s proposed eastern end.
  • Fault found with the language of an April 2019 “programmatic agreement” covering that matter and other issues.

The Judge remanded the issue back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tom Kent, the chief executive officer of NPPD, said Thursday morning that the ruling will delay but not stop the project. Kent said that he wasn’t immediately sure if NPPD would have to submit more information to the Fish and Wildlife Service and that lawyers were still reviewing the ruling. Senator Tom Brewer stated on social media that NPPD no longer has the legal authority to build this power line as currently planned.

The ruling in its entirety is located here: Civil Action No. 19-cv-1945-WJM