Iowa farmers could have more rising out of their fields than corn stalks. Clean Line Energy out of Texas wants to link wind energy produced by turbines in northwest Iowa to big cities like Chicago and further east. But before that happens there is a growing debate as Clean Line attempts to secure easements from more than 2,000 landowners between those towering wind generators and power stations in Illinois. Farmers in 16 Iowa counties including Benton, Linn, Jones and Cedar are bristling at the plan that will bring 150 foot towers and high voltage power lines across or near their land. Tuesday night the Iowa Utilities Board introduced a presentation by Clean Line to more than 200 landowners meeting in Marion. Some are concerned the $2- Billion construction project will disrupt their farm operations. Others like Evie Johnson ask about health risks and a study she’s read from The National Institute of Environment Health Sciences. “ They while there’s no evidence linking it to cancer .. they go on to say at the end of their study they can not necessarily say it is safe because there seems to be a slight link between increase leukemia .. so as a mom that scares me. “
Engineers on the Clean Line Rock Island project assured Johnson the lines are safe. The pitch to landowners includes a lot of upside. The transmission lines are designed to take clean wind energy to more than one million homes. Once the lines are up it could clear the way for more than $7-Billion dollars in additional wind energy projects across Iowa and according to Clean Line Manager Beth Conley, that could mean a lot of jobs. “ so the construction of those wind farms combined with the construction of our transmission lines could spur 5,000 or more long-term construction jobs. In addition to that when you put that much wind energy in the ground you have to have folks to operate and maintain those turbines. “
But first the Clean Line project must get permission from hundreds of landowners like Andy Neverman who groaned along with the crowd when they were told there’s no evidence the transmission lines would hurt their property values and expressed frustration when told if farmers aren’t willing to deal, their land could be condemned. “ Whether the property owners want it or not doesn’t matter, if the company can prove that somewhere down the line there’s gonna be a public service or it’s going to be of use to the public then it doesn’t matter what the people that are along the line want .. they can still approve it .. we have no say in the matter. “
Conley says the process is starting now to try to avoid those fights. “ we’re really early in the process to work with landowners and to address all of their questions to the best of our ability and really hopefully come to that voluntary agreement. “
While some farmers vow to fight the request for 200-foot wide easements across their land, others may be convinced by the cash. Clean Line says it will pay up to $18,000 for the largest transmission towers and additional payments for land used during construction and for access. The Iowa Utilities Board must still approve the plan but Clean Line Power says it hoped to begin construction by 2015.
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