“We fully support OPPD developing solar energy in Sarpy County, but it needs to be in a location that makes sense for everyone involved – a location that fits in with the shared vision we’ve been working toward for decades,” said Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly.
OPPD is currently planning a large-scale solar farm in Sarpy County, but the project requires a 450-megawatt natural gas component to serve as backup. Sarpy County has serious concerns about the environmental impacts of a natural gas-burning plant in the county and believes OPPD should consider a more rural location within its large service area. Therefore, Sarpy County opposes the construction of a natural gas plant along Platteview Road or elsewhere the county that is not in an industrially zoned area.
As Sarpy County grows, county leaders are focused on how to prioritize projects and best serve residents. A key priority is ensuring the county has well-planned and maintained infrastructure like roads and sewers.
These projects play a big role in facilitating new growth and attracting developments that create jobs and increase the tax base.
In 2017, the Omaha World-Herald published an editorial detailing the importance of creating a regional wastewater system in Sarpy County. “Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk framed the issue well: “If there are no homes to be purchased and there’s no development to be made, businesses that are looking at the Omaha area to expand will stop. If we don’t expand the tax base, we all will pay more taxes — it’s that simple.”
While Sarpy County and the five cities have been working diligently for several years to make this plan a reality, it was only a few months ago that OPPD confirmed they purchased more than 500 acres of land and hold options on another 700 acres along the prime Platteview Road growth corridor, effectively removing that land from any development into the foreseeable future.
Sarpy County remains ready and willing to work cooperatively with OPPD to find a proper location for solar energy in Sarpy County, however we recently learned OPPD will be formally seeking approval of the their plan to build a solar farm on the Platteview Road sites in early August.
That’s why the county has raised concerns about OPPD’s plan to build the solar farm and natural gas plant along Platteview Road from roughly 156th Street west to 192nd Street. The county supports bringing a solar farm to the county – just not in this particular area.
Here is what’s at stake: This year alone, the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners approved resolutions to start designing the future of Platteview Road – a four-lane expressway that spans the county – and to start construction on an 9-square mile section of major arterial streets in western Sarpy County, from Giles Road to Highway 370 and 168th Street to 204th Street.
Sarpy County and the five Sarpy cities are also working together to add sanitary sewer infrastructure to southern Sarpy County. The area doesn't currently have a unified sewer system, which is a detriment to growth and keeps needed jobs from coming to Sarpy County. By joining together to form the Sarpy County and Cities Wastewater Agency, the county and the cities can work toward a unified vision for the area and create the Unified Southern Sarpy Sewer System. The system is currently being designed and construction will begin in the next 12 months.
These road and sewer projects represent more than a hundred-million-dollar investment in the future of Sarpy County and have been years in the making.
Sarpy County and city leaders use the Sarpy County Future Land Use Map to help guide investments in roads and sewers, including the Unified Southern Sarpy Sewer System. The map shows the western stretch of Platteview Road to someday be a mix of homes, mixed-use developments, schools, parks and businesses. The Wastewater Agency used the future land use assumptions to develop a financial model that will fund the construction and operation of the new system without the need for property tax dollars. If OPPD develops the solar farm and natural gas plant in this location, the Agency (backed by your property tax dollars) will lose millions of dollars in user and connection fees, making the new sewer system financially unfeasible – or worse, an added drain on Sarpy County taxpayers.
The unified strategy is already working. Sound infrastructure investments helped bring data centers for Facebook, Google and other companies soon to be announced to the Highway 50 corridor. These businesses add hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy every year, including good jobs in Sarpy County and the State of Nebraska.
The Sarpy County Board of Commissioners strongly supports working together to find solutions for a shared county vision, and encourages OPPD to join those discussions as well. The Board has actively worked with OPPD to find other project sites within Sarpy County that would meet OPPD’s needs and support the unified county vision – without wasting the millions of dollars already invested in the future.
Coming next week: Environmental impacts and cost of urban sprawl and the importance of Platteview Road