A massive electricity transmission line that will wend its way through most west-central Illinois counties on its way to Indiana – weaving through Morgan, Brown, Cass, Pike, Schuyler and Scott counties – has cleared a significant hurdle, with the state’s commerce commission approving most of the project.
The decision clears the way for Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois to begin acquiring rights-of-way for the 330-mile line, and would put the utility on track to have it in service as early as 2016.
Ameren Transmission filed for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the 345,000-volt transmission line with the Illinois Commerce Commission on Nov. 7, 2012, following a lengthy series of meetings through the counties along the project path.
The utility maintains the transmission line is needed to upgrade services and safety and prevent outages, as well as for improved efficiency of the electric power grid.
According to information filed with the ICC, the $1 billion project is the largest since the 1980s and will connect with Missouri at a new substation near Palmyra, Mo., that will cross the river to Quincy and “continuing east across Illinois to Meredosia, Pawnee, Pana, Mount Zion and Kansas, then across the Indiana border to Sugar Creek. The project includes two additional segments from Meredosia to Ipava and Sidney to Rising Sun.”
Nine substations would have to be built or modified in Illinois because of the project.
The route approved by the commerce commission brings the line south from Ipava through Schuyler County and to the west of Beardstown to Meredosia. From an approved substation site at Meredosia, it would go into Chapin Precinct Township and through Merritt, Winchester, Lynnville, Woodson, Franklin, Waverly and Centerville townships and then go into Sangamon County. The preferred route would have followed a relatively straight path from Meredosia either parallel to or along Ill. 123 through Morgan County.
It is expected the project will require a 150-foot easement and “although property owners will retain full use of the property within the easement, structures may not be built or trees planted within the easement,” according to project documents. Ameren Real Estate representatives will meet with landowners to discuss the easement process and to ensure that both Illinois Department of Agriculture guidelines are followed and land is restored as close as possible to preconstruction condition when things are done.
Construction is expected to start in 2014.
“We are pleased with the ICC’s decision confirming that the Illinois Rivers project is necessary and the best approach to addressing the reliability needs of customers and ensuring the development of an efficient electricity market,” said Maureen A. Borkowski, president of Ameren Transmission, which is a subsidiary of Ameren Corp. “This project will help fuel the Illinois economy and provide customers access to a variety of energy sources, including wind energy.”
The Interstate Commerce Commission did not approve two of the nine segments of the project through Illinois or six of nine proposed substations. Ameren Transmission officials said they would continue working the the agency to gain approval.
The project drew almost 300 comments in opposition, many of them from Douglas and Piatt counties. Most of the opposition was because of the proximity of the high-voltage lines near residential areas. It has previously been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator.
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