Monday, December 9, 2013

RICL Update from Iowa

This week I received an update from Susan who attended informational meeting in Iowa hosted by the Iowa Utility Board and Clean Line Energy.  While “Clean” Line Energy applied in Illinois for public utility status in October 2012, “Clean” Line Energy has just started the process in Iowa.  In my na├»ve ignorance, over the last year, I’ve been wondering why Iowa residents haven’t been near as concerned about the Rock Island “Clean” Line.  The answer is simple. It’s not a lack of motivation.  They weren’t informed and are just now beginning to learn about “Clean” Line’s intentions. 

I’ve learned a few things about transmission siting in Iowa that is different from Illinois.  Powerlines in Iowa MUST be on the fence lines.  That is logical and makes a lot of sense.  In Illinois, RICL still hasn’t stated how far off the fence line they wish to site this thing through Ophir Township, LaSalle County.  This is exactly the kind of additional landowner protection that is needed in Illinois. 

Staying on the fence lines does create stair stepping and lattice towers are used at the 90 degree turns.  Powerlines in Iowa are discouraged from cutting though the middle of fields or run diagonally.  Ameren did exactly just that with the 100,000 volt powerline though our pasture.  Crossing the road Ameren cut diagonally to avoid the Fairmount Mineral’s property and came through our pasture.

Avoiding fence lines is an advantage for powerline companies.  First, there is half the landowners to deal with.  Second, the powerlines can be much shorter.  Third, 90 degree turns cost money with larger lattice towers or fatter monopoles.  There are claims it’s not always possible to stay on the fence line and stair step “WHERE POSSIBLE”.  Another report I’ve heard has over half of one county, the proposed RICL route is through fields, but staying on the fence lines makes sense to landowners and is one method to mitigate the loss of property value.  If RICL was serious about listening to stakeholder’s concerns, this is a big one they’ve remained silent about.

It will be interesting to watch the process unfold in Iowa.  There are several things we can learn from other states.  Illinois clearly needs more landowner protection. 

Below is an exert from Susan’s email.  Thanks Susan for keeping us informed!

I recently spent a few days meeting Iowa landowners and attended a couple of the Iowa RICL meetings. The process is very different there from Illinois but to the oppositions favor. The Iowa Utility Board (IUB), and Clean Line Energy contact those directly impacted by certified mail with invites to the informational mtgs.   In the four meetings I attended about 1,200 affected landowners were present.

They were stunned and definitely upset after being given the 'landowner rights' speech by the IUB.  Then the Clean Line presentations ended with the land agent saying she could now begin meeting with landowners privately. Finally, the IUB representative opens up the floor to a 45 minute question time. It instantly becomes quite interesting.

For these meetings, being the first time most of the impacted landowners learned anything about the proposed project, it doesn't take long for the landowners to begin to recover from the initial overwhelming shock and start hammering with questions.  I imagine their newly formed Iowa alliance is really busy right now creating a grassroots organization.  It was very rewarding to be able to reassure Iowa landowners that Illinois does not want this either and that our alliance is very strong.

The line traverses the length of Iowa in a stair stepping route specifically following fence lines, so many more acres are impacted. The opportunity as I see it, will be for all these concerned citizens on both sides of the fence lines to get a grassroots group that is over three times as long as in Illinois.    While RICL has had land agents active in Illinois since October 2010, I was told by a Clean Line land agent that Illinois has less than 2% of the landowners with signed contracts.  LESS THAN 2%!!!!

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