Mary Dettke lives on a century farm southwest of Marysville.
“It’s been in the family for more than 100 years,” Dettke said.
She and her husband, David, have hired a contractor to restore the limestone and wood barn that his grandfather built. They’re worried, however, that the historic structure may not be completed if a large-scale, east-west transmission line were built through the area.
Clean Line Energy Partners, Houston, has plans to build a line from southwest Kansas up through several counties, including Marshall, and on through Missouri and Illinois.
The 700-mile line, the first of its kind in the nation, would pass 3,500 megawatts of power to the eastern U.S. grid. The poles supporting the line would be 150 to 200 feet high, possibly as a single pole or a four-pole structure.
The company plans to pick one of its three proposed routes in late June, said Clean Line director of development Mark Lawlor. The Kansas Corporation Commission in Topeka will decide whether to approve it.
While he declined to say which line is the likely choice, Lawlor said the northern route was not likely. The other two run to the south of U.S. Highway 36, one running parallel to an existing Westar Energy line and the other proposal a few miles south of there.
Dettke looks south across her farm to a nearby field where the Westar line already runs. Clean Line’s proposed middle route crosses the area where they live, which would mean two industrial-sized transmission lines through their land.
“We don’t want that line right next to the house for quite a few reasons. There’s not a good place on our land to move the house,” Dettke said.
She’d prefer to see Clean Line run the line along Interstate 70 or to bury it.
“They say it’s too expensive to bury cable. Well, the phone company has buried lines with great success. Since they’ve buried our phone cable we’ve had no troubles at all. I’m thinking maintenance-wise it would save them money,” Dettke said.
Lawlor said that’s not an affordable option.
“It is not something with today’s technology that’s feasible in the voltage we’re talking about.”
On the eastern end of Marshall County, near Axtell, farmer John Broxterman also has the Westar line running across his 280-acre farm. The addition of another, major transmission project, he said, would hinder farming and reduce his property value – cutting into about a third of his land.
The Westar line is “kind of a necessary nuisance,” he said, because it provides power to the area. But the Clean Line project would not be used for any power needs in Kansas.
Lawlor says Kansas’ potential for wind energy exceeds the state’s capacity to use it and that more wind farms in western Kansas can boost the state’s economy by allowing them to export wind-generated power to other parts of the country.
That can’t happen, however, without more transmission.
East of there, on the Nemaha-Marshall county line, Rick Strathman argues passionately about stopping Clean Line from running through his dairy heifer operation and nearby home.
“We have several hundred pregnant animals here every day of the year. I’m really concerned how this would affect the health of our operation,” Strathman said.
Lawlor says Clean Line asked residents and farmers along the proposed paths to describe their property and any possible structures it might cross. The goal, he said, is to try and route around them where possible.
The company is offering payments of 100 percent of a “fair market value” for a one-time easement payment. They’ll also make structure payments to landowners, who can choose an annual or upfront lump sum. The company, which will have the right of eminent domain as a public utility in Kansas, will pay 20 percent of the value of that easement now.
“When construction time comes, we’d pay the remaining value on that,” Lawlor said. “If it doesn’t go, they keep the money. If it does, they’ll get a portion of it up front. …We decided to start that much earlier than anticipated.”
The three landowners aren’t pleased. They’ve joined other landowners in forming CLEANR, Coalition for Landowners, Environment And Natural Resources, which is circulating a petition against the line both in print and online at http://tinyurl.com/denycleanline. [www.change.org]
The petition will be taken to the Kansas Corporation Commission, which is expected to hold public hearings on the route once it is announced.
For Strathman’s farming operation, it would be a major nuisance, he said.
“You have to spray around them. Every pole takes a third of an acre away from you. Over the years, that production really adds up,” he said. “I don’t feel I should have to forfeit my production for their profit.”
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