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Meeting next month to discuss Ameren transmission line

PAWNEE – Construction of a 330-mile high-voltage power transmission line across central Illinois could begin as early as 2014, but the first stop is a public meeting in Pawnee next month.

Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois proposes to build the Illinois Rivers transmission line, at a cost of $890 million to $1.4 billion, along a corridor from Quincy to Terre Haute, Ind. The corridor passes just south of Springfield.

A public open house scheduled for May 15 in Pawnee is the first of three required by law. Final approval is up to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“We want the public to be fully aware of where it’s being done, why it’s being done and when it’s being done,” company spokesman Leigh Morris said Thursday.

Ameren Corp. says the line is needed to assure system reliability, to meet future demand and to help carry renewable energy, primarily from wind farms, across the Midwest power grid.

Morris said the open house will include information on real-estate requirements, engineering and environmental issues, maps and possible routes. Participants also will be able to offer comments. Morris said the public meetings will help determine a suitable route for the transmission line.

“An existing corridor, such as a highway, railroad or existing utility lines, those could be opportunities,” said Morris. “We also want the public to identify sensitivities. A sensitivity could be a subdivision. A sensitivity could be recreational land, a sensitivity could be a school.”

Morris said a second open house will be scheduled to explain the proposed routes, and a final open house will be held on the preferred and secondary routes. He said the project will be built in segments west-to-east, with construction starting in 2014 and the first power flowing in 2016.

The company expects to file an application for approval with the ICC this fall.

ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch said it could take several months to review the project. She said commissioners must decide whether the transmission line is needed to assure reliability and to meet future power demand.

“We don’t know how long the process will take,” said Bosch. “There are different sections of the law that apply.”

Developers of the Sangamon Wind Farm also have been tracking the transmission project and how it might affect plans for a 200-turbine wind farm in western Sangamon County, said Chris Nickell, site manager for American Wind Energy Management.

“Anytime you increase transmission capacity to move power out of an area, it helps promote local generation,” said Nickell. “We certainly hope it has a positive impact for us, but it’s far enough in the future, we can’t say for sure we’d be linked to it.”

Transmission Company of Illinois wants to build a 330-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line across central Illinois. The proposed corridor begins at Quincy and follows a route just south of Springfield to Terre Haute, Ind. Communities along the corridor include Meredosia, Jacksonville, Pawnee, Pana and Charleston.

* What next? Public meeting scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the Ameren training facility on Illinois 104 between Interstate 55 and Pawnee. Two more public meetings will be scheduled before an application for approval is submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

* How much is 345,000 volts? According to the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, overhead transmission lines range from 69,000 to 765,000 volts.