Citizens group challenges inadequate hearing notice and lack of alternative transmission line proposals that would avoid going through the heart of the historic Killdeer Mountain BattlefieldPosted 1/20/14
The Killdeer Mountain Alliance (KMA), a citizens’ group committed to protection of the Killdeer Mountains of western North Dakota, has asked the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to require Basin Electric to “go back to the drawing board” on its proposed transmission lines in the Killdeer Mountain area.
At a public hearing on January 16 in Watford City, ND, the group questioned the short notice for the hearing as well as Basin Electric’s failure to propose alternative routes that would avoid the historic Killdeer Mountain Battlefield.
Rob Sand, a spokesperson for the KMA, noted that RUS guidelines require that their public hearings be “’well-advertised in local media outlets a minimum of 15 days prior to the time of the meeting.’”
“Of the small number who made it to the Thursday meeting,” Sand said, “many learned of it only through a posting on the Killdeer Mountain Alliance facebook site.
“Several of us had been watching for a notice, because we knew this hearing was supposed to take place in January.
“Someone finally found an announcement on the Basin Electric website that was posted a week ago. That hardly meets the “well-advertised-in-local-media” standard.”
The hearing’s purpose was to assess public response to the supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for Basin Electric’s proposed Antelope Valley Station to Neset Transmission Project. The SDEIS was developed to expand the alternatives being considered.
The KMA’s fundamental problem with the SDEIS is that it proposes no alternatives that would avoid passing through the heart of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield.
“This means it fails to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” Sand said.
“Basin Electric is requesting Federal taxpayer subsidies for constructing the transmission project,” he explained. “That’s why it requires RUS approval. We want to know why the RUS is even considering using its funds to degrade the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield when its sister Federal agency, the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior, used taxpayer money to study the battlefield site and identified it as a place worthy of protection through inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.”
“Also important is that for the first time the Rural Utility Service and the other cooperating agencies have recognized the extent and importance of the Killdeer Mountain Battle of 1864,” Sand said. “This was an important historical and cultural Civil War site from the perspective of both Union Army forces and the Native Americans who fought and died there. It’s an essential part of American history and key to understanding the U.S.-Dakota Wars.”
The KMA statement at the hearing closed with a question and a conclusion: “What must be done to avoid degrading this unique historical and cultural site on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Killdeer Mountain, which took place on July 28, 1864? The project must be sent back to the drawing board. Alternatives that avoid crossing the battlefield must be evaluated in a detail comparable to analysis of the present alternatives. It must be demonstrated that it is not practicable to avoid degrading the Battlefield site. Only then will the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act be satisfied, and we as citizens and taxpayers can have confidence that the decisions of government are indeed in the public interest.”
“We call on ND officials to take note of these problems and insist on alternative proposals that avoid crossing the Battlefield,” Sand said. “That is what the National Environmental Policy Act requires.
“It would be a tragedy if a huge transmission line across the Battlefield were approved and under construction just as a major study of the Battlefield has finally been funded, and commemoration ceremonies for this summer’s 150th anniversary of the Killdeer Mountain Battle are being planned. North Dakotans deserve better than this.”