HAMPTON | At least a few participants came into Tuesday morning’s meeting exuding hostility toward the proposed Rock Island Clean Line overhead transmission line.
Afterwards, at least a few left satisfied they at least got more specific information about the proposed project that will cut across 17 counties in Iowa.
“I got answers to my questions. I don’t know if it was what I was hoping for,” Murray McMurray said.
He lives near Webster City but owns land in Franklin County that his family rents to farmer Kevin Kew near Meservey.
“I get the compensation. He gets the pain in the ass farming around it,” McMurray said.
The Iowa Utilities Board and Clean Line organized the first session Tuesday to share details about the preferred route and compensation to affected landowners. The intention was not to debate the merits of the project, Jim Sundemeyer, the board’s representative, told the crowd.
In McMurray’s case, he wanted to know why the transmission line must make two 90-degree turns on his land. After the meeting he spoke to an engineer and land agent about extending the line to the farm’s border, then turning.
“Which they thought was do-able,” McMurray said.
“I would say they were very cooperative that way. The end result is yet to be seen,” he added.
A second meeting is scheduled at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Parkersburg. Other sessions will follow in coming days along the transmission lines proposed route on toward Scott County in southeast Iowa.
Participants in Hampton learned more about compensation for hosting a supporting structure and overhead wires. In an example provided by Julie Rasmussen, a member of Clean Line’s contract land staff, the property owner would receive slightly more than $103,000.
The example was based on two “monopole” towers and a half mile of wires over about 8 acres of land. Using other variables, like larger, four-legged structures, would affect the potential payout. Such a lattice tower, for instance, would be worth a one-time payment of $18,000 or annual payments of $1,500.
In Franklin County, the company for compensation purposes uses a figure of 90 percent of fair market value. The amount in the example was $10,400 per acre.
Farmers and landowners also learned Clean Line will pay for crop losses, now and in the future.
“For as long as the loss of yield exists,” Rasmussen said.
Harold Prior of Milford, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, injected his views during the question and answer period. He noted northwest Iowa has essentially reached the limit on the number of wind turbines the area will allow because transmission lines are not available.
The Clean Line project would allow expansion of the industry in the state, according to Prior. He estimated another 2,000 wind turbines could go up after the line is constructed.
“This is very much Iowa’s newest cash crop,” he added.
A voice in the crowd, however, questioned the benefit locally.
“We’re not northwest Iowa. We’re central Iowa,” the man called out, prompting a bit of applause.
Another member of the audience offered a similar refrain about sending electricity out of state.
“Why don’t we take care of our own before we take care of Illinois?” the man asked.
Beth Conley, Clean Line’s representative in Iowa, said the state already leads the nation. According to her figures, Iowa is No. 3 in wind generation behind Texas and California. Beyond that, Conley said 24 percent of Iowa’s electricity is wind-generated.
“That really blows the other states out of the water,” Conley said.
Landowner Milton Heyde of Hampton was apparently among those not particularly concerned about Clean Line’s impact on his property.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I think I kind of heard enough.”
Heyde noted he supports wind energy and liked the option the transmission line might represent.
“If we ever put in a wind farm, I’d like to be able to tap into it,” he added.
McMurray after the meeting was not yet ready to endorse the project. He also noted Clean Line’s option to request eminent domain authority to place power poles over landowners’ objections.
“I want to go back and absorb the information,” he said.
“You’re not going to fight this. They’re just going to condemn properties,” McMurray added.
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