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Meeting Explains Specifics On Proposed Transmission Line Project

By Staff | Aug 27, 2013

ANSWERING?QUESTIONS - Hans Detweier, Project Developler for the Rock Island Clean Line, answers questions from area residents during an Iowa Utilities Board hearing and informational meeting Wednesday. A proposed DC?power transmission line crossing Palo Alto County is meeting resistance from landowners along the route of the Rock Island Clean Line, which is proposed to run through portions of Silver Lake, Great Oak, Nevada, Fern Valley and West Bend Townships as is crosses the county from west to east. -- Dan Voigt photo

Property owners across a corridor of southern Palo Alto County learned more specifics about the proposed Rock Island Clean Line power transmission line project. Around 130 area residents turned out Wednesday morning for a public hearing and informational meeting sponsored by Iowa Utilities Board and Rock Island Clean Line, LLC at the Iowa Lakes Community College Auditorium in Emmetsburg. The Rock Island Clean Line project calls for the construction of an overhead 600 kilovolt, Direct Current transmission line that would begin at a converter station in O’Brien County and end in Illinois. The length of the transmission line will be 500 miles, and is projected to cost an estimated $2 billion.

Wednesday’s informational meeting at Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg was a requirement of the Iowa Utilities Board regulations governing such projects, and was designed to inform the public and landowners about their rights regarding such projects.

Jim Sundemeier, with the Iowa Utilities Board, explained property owners’ rights, along with fair compensation and regulations that relate to land acquisition through eminent domain. “Any company building on private land must obtain the required permission to do so from the landowner, which is known as an easement,” Sundemeier explained. “Now, if the company and the landowner cannot come to an agreement, the company can file a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board to obtain the land through the process of eminent domain.”

To obtain land through the eminent domain process, a company must prove there is a significant need to serve the public through the use of the private property. Fair and just compensation, determined by the appropriate county Compensation Commission, would determine the compensation amount for the landowner in that case. However, landowners have the right, under law, to appeal through the process.

“Objections to this project must be filed not later than 20 days after the final publication of the notice of the Iowa Utilities Board,” Sundemeier noted. “Only written objections filed with the Utilities Board will become part of the record. A verbal objection is not part of the case record. “

Hans Detweiler, project developer explained that the Rock Island Clean Line project was developed for two reasons. “This is a terrific economic benefit and opportunity, in that it will prove 400 megawatts of electrical power valued at $7 billion and will have the potential to create 500 new jobs in the wind energy sector in the state.”

The second purpose of the project, according to Detweiler, was to create a new route for energy to flow to places where it was needed.

“Northwest Iowa is the best wind energy resource, and the closest, to the Chicago area,” Detweiler explained. “The problem is, where the best wind is, there are no transmission lines for the energy, and then, vice-versa, where there are transmission lines, there is not good wind energy.”

According to Detweiler, the project would provide enough electricity to light 1,4 million homes, more than the population of the state of South Dakota, and three times the electrical output of the Hoover Dam.

“So why a DC?transmission line?” Detweiler said. “DC?has a much higher efficiency over a long distance with less load loss. There is only a five to six percent loss of current on a 600 KVA line over a 15 to 16 percent loss on a 345 KVA? AC transmission line.”

Detweiler pointed out that the county would receive $7,000 per year, per mile of transmission line, as prescribed by law, in replacement tax.

Construction was estimated to begin in 2016 and be completed in 2017, after obtaining regulatory approval and franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board.

Curtis Stymack, an engineer for the project, explained that three types of structures could be used to construct the transmission line, but that the preferred structure would be a steel monopole, which would require four to six poles per mile at a height of 100 to 140 feet, with a line span of 1,000 to 1,300 feet between poles. A second type of structure, a lattice-work single steel mast, also 100 to 140 feet tall, would also utilize the same factors as the monopole.

The third type of structure, th four-legged lattice work steel tower, would require three to five structures per mile with a wire span of 1,100 to 1,600 feet between towers.

The line route would require a right-of-way of 145 to 200 feet in width. The clearance of the lines from their lowest sag point to the ground would be 34 feet.

With the completion of the public meeting, Rock Island Clean Line may, by law, begin contacting landowners along the proposed route to discuss easement acquisitions.

Permanent easements will be sought, with value being calculated on acreage used and a study of recent market values to determine 90 percent of that current value.

Payments for a monopole or lattice mast would be $6,000 as a lump-sum, or an annual payment of $500, while the four-leg tower would realize a payment of $18,000 in a lump sum, or $1,500 annually.

Damages would also be paid to landowners for crop damage, irrigation interference, damage to drainage tile and commercially marketable timber.

Several questions were posed by the public, along with comments.

Kathy Merrill noted, “Our land is not for sale. Your plan is hurting my farm business and not helping anyone in Iowa.”

Another comment pointed out that the farms being affected by the transmission line route were multi-million dollar operations, and that RICL’s proposed payments were “peanuts.”

“How safe is it?” One landowner asked. “I don’t want that line running over top of my house.”

Regulations prohibit the line from being any closer than 150 feet from the line’s easement.

Several questions were asked regarding stray voltage hazards, to which Detweiler answered there were no concerns, as DC?power did not have stray voltage.

Amy Williams of RICL noted that studies by the University of Minnesota found no appreciable affects to livestock from DC voltage transmission lines, and also cited a World Health Organization study that indicated there were not issues with stray voltage from DC current lines.

The next step in the project depends on the issuance of a franchise by the Iowa Utilities Board, which will consider all evidence and objections to the project.