- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - A proposed 500-mile transmission line to carry electricity from wind turbines in northwest Iowa to customers in Illinois is encountering significant resistance from farmers and other landowners across the state.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (https://bit.ly/1yIbgRt ) the proposed Rock Island Clean Line would cross 16 Iowa counties and 1,540 different properties.

A group of more than 1,000 landowners in the region has organized the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance to oppose the project.

Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners is proposing the transmission line. The company’s Beth Conley says even though Iowa won’t receive energy from the line, the state will receive an economic boost from the line and the wind turbines that are expected to follow.

“Our project will open up the opportunity for a $7 billion investment in wind farms,” Conley said. “In northwest Iowa, you haven’t seen the growth that matches the potential for wind energy because of the lack of transmission capacity.”

Conley said the amount the company is offering landowners for easements is close to 90 percent of the land’s value.

“We have worked really hard to put together a package that we believe is fair and also consistent,” Conley said. “We work with landowners.

But Ted and Kim Junker, who farm near Stout in Grundy County, don’t think the compensation is adequate for the disruption the project would cause to their farm.

“It’s going to have to cut across our land and disrupt our farming quite a bit,” Kim Junker said. “Our farming equipment, you don’t just go out there and farm, you have to bypass transmission towers, and when you aerial spray you can’t do that with voltage transmission lines in your way.”

The Junkers parked a semitrailer on their land along U.S. Highway 20 with “Stop RICL” painted in red letters to demonstrate their opposition.

The Iowa Utility Board will review the project and gather feedback to determine whether it should move forward. State officials are paying attention to the concerns about the power line.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said he’s heard from people who support and oppose the project.

“It’s the same with turbines. You have folks that say, ‘I don’t want to be near that at all,’ and others say, ‘Tell me what it’s worth, and there’s a place that I think it would be worth it for me,’” Northey said. “Even with lower (commodity) prices out there, there may be certain folks who may be friendly to some income opportunities. There could be difference in attitude between landlord and tenant.”

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s main concern with the project is to ensure that farmers are treated properly and compensated properly, spokesman Don Petersen said.

“Basically, if we’re going to develop projects to transmit electricity, if it’s in the public’s interest to do that, we want farmers to be treated fairly and equitably in the development of those projects,” Petersen said.

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com


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