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Rock Island Clean Line agrees to use smaller transmission towers

The Rock Island Clean Line is a proposed transmission line to transport Iowa wind energy to Illinois and the East coast.

The project has been wrapped in controversy as landowners try to fight the placement of new power poles through their farms.

It still needs state approval, but the company has agreed to a major change when it builds the line.

Instead of using big, steel lattice structures, that take up a lot of ground beneath them, Clean Line Energy has agreed to use a different type of pole instead.

A decision farmers credit the Illinois Department of Agriculture for sticking to.

“It takes bigger machinery than, on flat ground you can get by with half the size, you know power wise and stuff,” says Rock Island County farmer Brent Riewerts. He spent Tuesday racing to get his crops sprayed. A task already complex enough and one that will become more challenging when a utility tower is built in his field.

“It’d be like if someone just put a fence post in the middle of your driveway in town, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, but if you had to do that every time you want to get in and out of your garage you’d probably have enough of it about the third or fourth time,” says Riewerts.

He says it’s good the Illinois ag department got Clean Line Energy to commit to using monopoles to string their transmission lines across fields. A smaller pole means less interference with farming.

“It’s not just the sprayer, it’s the corn planters, it’s the combine head,” says Riewerts.

Helping ease a source of tension for landowners.

“We had a lot of feedback from landowners that this was their preference, and so, in trying to make sure that we could meet as many of those preferences as possible we decided to make that decision,” says Clean Line Energy Manager Doug Jones.

He spoke with many landowners. He says his company is doing its best to work with them.

“They just have concerns about what impact this project they might have to land they’ve worked so hard all of their lives,” says Jones.

For Riewerts, the ag department agreement is only a minor victory. He still opposes the project, and steel terrace or not, any obstacle influences his productivity as a farmer.

“When you got rain coming, that extra 20 acres could mean the difference between getting a field done, or not,” says Riewerts.

Clean Line Energy would still use steel terrace structures where the line turns or crosses along a long stretch like a river.

The project still awaits public utility status from the Illinois Commerce Commission.

A hearing is scheduled for December.

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