Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2012, 7:46 pm
Clean Line seeks public utility status
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By Stephen Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rock Island Clean Line LLC on Wednesday asked the Illinois Commerce Commission for public utility status to build a 3,500-megawatt transmission line through northern Illinois.
The proposed line has met with opposition in recent weeks from area landowners concerned that eminent domain may be used to obtain easements through their properties.
A news release Wednesday from Clean Line Energy Partners -- of which Rock Island Clean Line is an affiliate -- said the route is the result of more than two and a half years of planning, during which project representatives met with thousands of landowners and considered hundreds of different potential routing alternatives, according to the release.
Hans Detweiler, director of development for Clean LIne Energy Partners, said the proposed route ends near Channahan and includes:
-- 8.9 miles in Rock Island County starting at the Mississippi River south of Cordova;
-- 8 miles in Whiteside County between Hillsdale and Erie; and
-- 14.5 miles through Henry County north of Hooppole.
An alternate route would travel 18.1 miles through Henry County, passing west and south of Hooppole.
In August, the Henry County Board approved a development agreement with Clean Line. The Rock Island County Board has not approved the agreement yet.
"None of the (Henry) County board members contacted any of the affected landowners to get our input," said Hooppole farmer Rock Katschnig. "A lot of us in the Hooppole area will be affected."
Mr. Detweiler said the company plans to pay landowners 90 percent of fair market value for easements, plus $6,000 to $18,000 per structure. The company also would pay for any remediation work due to the transmission line construction, Mr. Detweiler sad.
Clean Line plans to move 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from northwest Iowa to communities in Illinois and other states to the east. The energy will be moved using approximately 500 miles of overhead, high voltage direct current transmission line.
The company says the transmission line construction will create hundreds of jobs and provide a $600 million direct investment in Illinois.
The ICC petition has left many landowners concerned, according to Henry County Farm Bureau legislative chairman Jim Ufkin. While the Henry County Farm Bureau has not taken a stand on the project, Mr. Ufkin noted it strongly opposes the use of eminent domain for private enterprise.
"This project is a energy superhighway with no on or off ramps to benefit our area," he said. "They have very little concern about how this project interferes with irrigators or modern-day agricultural practice.
"They are proud of the fact that they want to offer one set price to every one," Mr. Ufkin said. "On the surface, that sounds good. But one size does not fit all. There is a difference if a field is permanent pasture, old growth timber, or a high input seed corn field."
ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch said Clean Line's application does not seek eminent domain. She said that would have to be filed in a separate request.
Mr. Detweiler said eminent domain is a reasonable concern, but noted the company "is committed to as much voluntary land acquisition as possible."
"It's very important to understand the eminent domain process," he said. "After the public utility status and approval for the actual route, then we would attempt voluntarily to acquire land from the landowners.
"Only if those voluntary efforts fail, then we would apply for eminent domain on a parcel-by-parcel basis."