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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
We were surprised this week to learn that Superior is being considered as a possible location for an electrical generation plant. It has been said "What goes around comes around" and that apparently is true with electrical generation.
Superior has a long history of electrical power generation but until recently it looked like those days were in the ever more distant past.
The town's first electrical generating plant was a coal fired plant located on West Fourth Street. The plant was operated only in the evening hours to provide electric lighting. The building which housed the generator later housed the Farmers Union Cream Station, Yohn Diary and a series of shoe repair shops. It was torn down to make way for an expansion of Ideal Market.
After the original Superior flour mill located along what is now called Mill Race Road, burned to the ground, the owners decided generating electrical power was more profitable use of the mill's water resource. The flour mill rebuilt on East First Street did not directly utilize water power. An electrical generating plant was built on the site of the original flour mill. A dam west of town diverted water through a race to spin the plant's turbines. The privately owned Southern Nebraska Power Company distributed electrical energy generated by hydro plants located at Oak and Superior to a number of communities in Kansas and Nebraska. The company maintained an office in the building currently occupied by the Glass Connection.
From its earliest days, the cement plant also operated an electrical generating plant. That power plant was large enough to not only operate the cement plant but at times supplied power to Superior.
Problems developed with the Ideal plant and rather than spend the money to repair it, the company decided to purchase power from a publicly owned Nebraska company.
By the time the Bostwick Irrigation District was formed, the State of Nebraska had forced the sale of the privately owned Southern Nebraska Power Company to Consumers Public Power District and Nebraska has become this nation's only all public power state. With the development of irrigation, the right to use Republican River water was traded to the irrigators in exchange for hydro-power generated by the Bureau of Reclamation in South Dakota. Though the power plant building built in 1913 still stands, the equipment unfortunately was removed about 60 years ago. With the rising cost of electrical power, many small hydro plants have been refurbished and returned to operation. While water is no longer available for the Superior plant, had the equipment not been scrapped, it may have been possible to move it to a water source. While he was manager of the Superior utility department, the late Joe Jensen said it may have been feasible for the city to locate the equipment where it could have utilized flowing irrigation water to shave peak electrical consumption on summer days.
In more recent times the price of natural gas and federal tax laws have combined to encourage the development of natural gas fired power plants.
The construction of a power plant at Superior is far from certain but it is an interesting idea that we will closely follow in the coming months.
It is possible a combination of solar arrays, wind turbines and a natural gas generator could all become part of the Superior power mix. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Solar arrays work only in the daylight hours. Wind turbines are most efficient in the nighttime hours. A natural gas plant could provide backup when the two green power sources aren't producing. Such ideas may not be currently feasible but progressive community leadership should continue to explore the options.
We've seen lots of changes in the power mix and the changes will probably continue.
Before the development of the rural electric systems, many farms in this area had windchargers. By the 1950s, those systems were scrapped in favor of power purchased from the REA. Now it isn't uncommon for a farm to have a standby generator for use when REA power is not available.
We saw small-scale hydro plants fazed out when mega-coal fired and nuclear plants became popular. Nuclear power lost favor and coal become the fuel of choice. Now we are moving away from coal. Natural gas is becoming the fuel of choice. Wind turbines have also become popular in many states.
In the 1970s, municipal plants like those operated by Blue Hill, Red Cloud, Deshler, Fairbury and Belleville were moved to standby status because purchased power appeared to be more economical. Now it appears the industry is moving back to the smaller plants.
Rather than concentrating our power generation in a few locations, it may be in our own best interests to have many smaller plants. For example, on more than one occasion much of Nebraska has been without electrical power when one of the large plants unexpectedly went down or an ice storm took down miles of electrical transmission lines. In those instances, communities with power plants that could be brought on line shined (pun intended).


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

On Saturday, I went on a fish collecting mission. I always have more than one aquarium set up in my home (truthfully, I usually have more than three) and I almost always have a tank dedicated to some of the small and colorful fish available right in the Republican River.
Sometimes I go by myself with a long-handled net, which can be slow and difficult work, depending things like mud and current. Sometimes I accompany a friend with a large seine who is looking to restock his bait tank, which is faster and much more efficient. Either way, I am always looking for one or two specific kinds of fish for my native Nebraska tank.
This summer I'm collecting a beautiful fish called a rainbow dace ­­ in the aquarium world; around here, we call them red shiners. They are quite pretty and I've had good luck with wild-caught specimens in my tanks. I'm also collecting the plains killifish. I'm always collecting the plains killifish, except until Saturday, I'd never seen one aside from a picture in a book. They are supposed to be plentiful in the Republican, Platte and Nemaha rivers, but in all my years of collecting, I'd never encountered any. On Saturday, after helping my friend seine enough minnows and shiners for his bait tank, I managed to take home a half-dozen.
I think he likes having me along for more than just helping with the seine, although that is definitely not something a person can do by himself. Part of my job is carefully going through each net full to make sure he doesn't take anything home he's not supposed to, which in the Republican can be catfish, bass, bluegill, carp, gar or even rainbow trout. These are legal to take by traditional angling methods, but not with a seine.
During that process, I also watch for fish I'm interested in as an aquarist, and I keep my own bucket nearby. Once you find where the red shiners are, for instance, you can net a few hundred without too much trouble. In my native Nebraska tank, which is a 33-gallon flat-back hex, I plan to house no more than a dozen of each of those two fish.
There are a number of protected species in the Republican, and I keep myself educated on what they are. My basic rule is if I can't absolutely identify a fish as something it's okay for me to possess, it goes right back in the river. As I said, I'm almost always looking for something specific.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Every parent and grandparent can relate to the emotions of watching their children or grandchildren grow up right in front of their eyes, in what they consider to be a short period of time. In reality, the transformation takes years. It just seems like yesterday the children were baptized, learning to walk, celebrating their first birthday.
A teenage granddaughter stayed a week with me and my husband, and the changes that have taken place in this young woman are unmistakable. It just seems like yesterday we were holding her in our arms, rocking her back and forth. Memories of reading one of her favorite books, There is a Monster at the End of This Book, over and over again. Every time, she would anxiously await the turning of each page to get to the monster, and then giggle with delight to see it was just old friendly Grover at the end of the book. She made her affection for wearing dresses known at an early age ­­ the fancier the better. She wore pigtails and ribbons in her hair with pride, and she loved to challenge us to a game of "Go Fish."
Today, this granddaughter still likes to have her grandmother fix her pancakes for breakfast, as she has since she was a young child. As always, she enjoys climbing into the pickup with Granddad to go check on the crops. She quickly pitches in to help with household duties, but, as all teens do, she often retreats to check on what is on her phone. She enjoys sitting with us on the patio, sharing a thought, dream or school happening or two. She is growing up so fast and maturing every time we see her. She laughs, pointing out that she is much taller now and has a learner's permit. It feels different to have your granddaughter drive you around shopping.
When she returns to her own home, preparing for school to begin, we await her texts or emails to keep us up to date. But we really look forward to is the time when she texts, "When can I come and stay with you and granddad again?"
All of our granddaughters, from age two to almost 16, are precious to us. They are a joy for us grandparents, as I'm certain every grandchild is to their grandparents. The giggles, smiles, hugs, jokes and stories shared are special and cherished.
There is a song that comes to mind, co-written and sung by Harry Belafonte in the late 50s, called, "Turn Around, Turn Around." It goes something like "turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four, turn around and you're a young girl going out of the door."
Guess I best make plans to have some time with the youngest granddaughters while they are still in those early childhood years.