Saturday, October 29, 2011

Opposing the XL Pipeline

Water isn't necessarily the first thing people think of when they hear "Nebraska". Most are surprised to hear that Nebraska, a land-locked state in the middle of America, actually has more miles of shoreline than any other state.

You can see the truth of that by looking at the map below. Besides the Missouri River on our eastern edge, dozens of rivers traverse the state nearly border to border.
Many of these rivers, and dozens more creeks and streams are spring-fed from the Ogallala Aquifer.
Not only is the aquifer important for Nebraska, you can see from the map that it is important for the entire Great Plains region.

It is no secret that I love Nebraska and especially the Nebraska Sandhills. They have figured prominently in many of my blog posts like "Nebraska Beautiful".

Here is one of my favorite views of the North Birdwood Creek area just north of Sutherland.Nebraska's incredible ranching industry, which supplies beef to the world would have never been possible without the windmill allowing access to the water of the Aquifer.Even in the dry conditions of late summer, when rain is badly needed, the Sandhills have their own stark beauty.There are a lot of opinions on the XL Pipeline. There are many extremist views on both sides, with a lot of rhetoric being thrown back and forth. While I don't believe everything I read, I believe enough of it to be afraid... very afraid of the ROUTE of the pipeline. I'm not opposed to the pipeline itself. I know I'm being a hypocrite about this. A pipeline came through this area a few years ago, west to east, and I didn't give it a second thought. Until the Gulf disaster, I never thought to question what was flowing through the pipeline.

However, I am of the opinion that there are better routes for the pipeline than through the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills, directly on top of the largest body of fresh water in the world.

Here are some sources of the information I used to formulate my opinion:
Dirty Oil Sands
Save our Sandhills
The Center for Rural Affairs
And a great, even-handed guest opinion on the Nebraska.StatePaper.com.

Now Nebraska Governor Heineman has called a special session of the Nebraska Legislature. Many say it's too late, and that blocking the pipeline or rerouting it could open Nebraska up to lawsuits.

A colleague commented on a completely unrelated topic we were discussing "The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago... the next best time is today." We were working on a community redevelopment project, but the concept holds true here as well. Even if Nebraska can't do anything about the XL Pipeline (and I don't think that's a given), it shouldn't stop us from taking over the authority of the pipeline routing process in the future. It's our state... our natural resources... our Sandhills, and we are the caretakers of the Ogallala Aquifer for the entire Great Plains.

Bottom line for me is:
Big Business (and especially Big Oil) can't be trusted. Can you say BP? Or ExxonMobile?

Big Government can't be trusted (meaning no disrespect to the colleagues I have been working with over the past few days). Think of "cash for clunkers", TARP, auto industry bailouts, and the fallacy of "shovel ready" construction projects. All of these were to be the "magic bullet" that rocketed the U.S. out of the economic downturn. Do we really trust the geniuses behind these programs with something as basic as the water supply for millions of people?

There I've said it. Agree or disagree, it's my opinion.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on (being from a small town, I believe most issues can be settled over coffee at the local cafe).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Platte River Valley Autumn Drive

After a cool and drizzly start, Saturday turned into a beautiful autumn day in the Outback. What an autumn it's been too - we hosted a backyard bbq before a House Concert in late September, had one final kayak/tanking trip and attended an outdoor wedding in early October. Unfortunately, this being Nebraska, winter could appear with a vengeance at any time.Now is not the time to waste beautiful days sitting indoors, so a quick road trip before the Nebraska Cornhuskers game was definitely in order. On our trip north, we surprised a flock of turkeys crossing the historic bridge across the North Platte River.
This one straggler is wondering why his friends left him behind to face the oncoming traffic alone.
After a summer of record high water and lots of flooding of the low lying areas near the river, the water has finally receded. A picture taken from this vantage point earlier in the summer would have been one solid water-scape of flowing water. Now the river is nearly back to its trademark braided-channel appearance.
Further on, there is evidence that the wet meadows bordering the river dried out enough that farmers could get in and harvest the abundant hay.
Due to the severe drought south of us in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the price of hay is ranging from $185 a ton to $330 a ton, which is astronomical. It's all about supply and demand, but I feel sorry for the ranchers who have to buy hay at those prices to keep their cattle alive.

A couple of weeks ago there was a huge prairie fire north of us in the Sandhills near Stapleton, Nebraska that burned several thousand acres. It destroyed at least one home, lots of outbuildings and equipment, crops and many stack yards where the ranchers had stockpiled hay for winter use. It is going to be hard to replace it at today's prices.
All the plants propagated by seeds are in full distribution mode, counting on the wind and critters to distribute seed to fertile ground, including the Milk Weed above and the Cattails below.
You know how often The Mister and I take road trips exploring the local area, but there are still countless roads we have yet to make our way down. Today was a new one for us, and we came across something we just don't see every day - didn't even know was here, as a matter of fact.
At first I estimated that there must be 50 or so buffalo on this ranch, but on closer inspection of the picture, it's obvious that there are less than 20 - they just take up a LOT of room. You just never know what you're going to find when you take the time to explore.
Until the weather turns, I encourage you to get out and explore!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

O! Omaha

I just returned from the Nebraska Travel Conference, hosted by the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism. I conducted a workshop on Social Media 101, and one of the things I emphasized was that people need to start blogging, and they need to do it consistently! Seeing as how I haven't blogged since September 22, and only had one post in September, I think I had better follow my own advice and get to posting!

The Travel Conference was held in Omaha, and the community did a FANTASTIC job of hosting! I got to town early on Tuesday, with intentions of walking across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, but wimped out because of the chilly breeze. So I opted to have lunch in the Old Market, at Trini's in the passageway. it was FANTASTIC!

My colleagues from North Platte joined me later that evening, and we drove out to Village Pointe to meet up with the director from Gering and enjoyed a delicious meal at the Kona Grill. Judging from the shopping bags that filled our SUV on the way back to the hotel, Omaha enjoyed quite an economic boost from hosting the conference.

After a full day of meetings, we were treated to Blazing Pianos at DJ's Dugout. What a fantastic choice of entertainment to get us all in the spirit to engage in some quality networking. Knowing tourism peeps like to par-tay, Omaha arranged for buses to pick up the last guests exploring the Old Market at 11:00pm.

Thursday night is the big awards banquet, and due to a slightly under-the-weather Governor Heineman, we were out of there early, which was fine with me because we were headed downtown to the Slowdown to catch the Take Cover benefit for Hear Nebraska.

An early morning Friday meeting and a long drive back to North Platte ensured that we didn't stay late, but we really enjoyed the music while we were there.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on!

ShareThis