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Clean Line opponents speak out

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa – Opponents, in many cases landowners, attacked the proposed Rock Island Clean Line on Wednesday, finding fault with the proposed electric transmission line’s route, belittling potential benefits and criticizing the concept in general.

The objections surfaced during a question and answer session at a public meeting hosted by the Iowa Utilities Board and the company. The session was the third in two days. A fourth will begin at 3 p.m. today at the Supervisor’s Club and Event Center in Waterloo.

The company’s proposed project would cut across 17 counties in Iowa, transmitting direct electrical current generated by wind turbines in northwest Iowa to consumers in Illinois and points farther east.

Dennis Puckett, an attorney for Clean Line, said the company wants to work with property owners, tenants and residents.

“Their goal is to gain all voluntary easement agreements,” Puckett told the crowd.

Dennis Kruger, who farms near Dike, advised others in the audience to steer clear.

“I would recommend everybody here, don’t sign that easement. And I would recommend don’t even talk to them,” Kruger said.

Kruger established Kruger Seeds in the 1960s but is no longer involved in the company. He said he has a 450-acre and a 350-acre parcel that would possibly be bisected by the proposed transmission line. He threatened a class action lawsuit to block Clean Line’s plans.

“This will not be easy for you,” Kruger told the company’s representatives.

Clean Line again laid out its plans to compensate landowners who host structures and overhead wires. In Grundy County, the company calculates 90 percent of fair market value for land at $11,800 per acre. For Butler County, the company uses $10,000 and for Franklin County, $10,400.

Company representatives, however, also reiterated that farmers can continue to plant and harvest crops beneath the transmission line. They would not be able to build structures and would have to work around power poles or lattice towers. Easements would allow Clean Line to access its lines and poles when necessary for repairs, inspections and reconstruction.

Questioned about benefits to Grundy County, Beth Conley, Clean Line’s representative in Iowa, noted the company will pay $7,000 per mile in property taxes. Annually, the amount would be about $2.5 million in Iowa and about $200,000 in Grundy County.

Participants in Tuesday’s meetings also learned about proposed compensation for granting an easement and hosting a supporting structure and overhead wires. In an example provided by Julie Rasmussen, a member of Clean Line’s contract land staff, a property owner in Franklin County 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.

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 in Hampton. 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.