Scott County property owners who attended a presentation Thursday about the Rock Island Clean Line offered up a healthy dose of skepticism toward the high-power transmission line system proposed to run from northwest Iowa to near Chicago.
The 3,500-megawatt overhead direct current transmission line would be used to transmit wind-generated electricity. Thursday’s two-hour meeting in Davenport was the 15th of 16 planned in Iowa. Representatives answered nearly 29 questions from the nearly 300 people who attended. The line would run across northern Scott County, from New Liberty to Princeton, where it would cross the Mississippi River.
The presentation explained the basics of the project and also the compensation and construction processes. Questions ranged from possible health implications and economic development benefits to how many Iowa companies will be used in the construction and why wind energy along the Great Lakes and East Coast hasn’t been tapped.
“They come with great questions,” said Beth Conley, Iowa manager for Clean Line Energy Partners. “We’re happy to answer their questions. Some of the people with the hardest questions are the most interested.”
Roger Holdorf of Walcott was there to hear more about the project, calling himself very undecided. The transmission line would run through his property north of Maysville where three pipelines already cross it.
“Other people brought up things I hadn’t thought of,” he said.
The company is offering 90 percent of fair market value for what is some of the most valuable farmland in Iowa, estimated at $10,120 per acre. Holdorf pondered that.
“Is it compensation enough for me to look at it,” he said of the proposed power line. “It pollutes my airspace.”
Rock Island Clean Line hasn’t submitted an application to the Iowa Utility Board for approval, but with Thursday’s meeting, it can begin to talk to Scott County landowners about easements.
Doug Garner is dismayed by the project, noting that the design has the line running for two miles through his land east of Eldridge. He said his son, Mike Garner, is even more upset. Like Holdorf, he has pipelines running through his property and said he has regular crop loss on the farmland where the larger pipeline runs.
“In my mindset, this is a done deal,” he said. “They are going to offer me a lot of money, and people say I’m stupid not to take it. I’d just rather not take it.
“If it was down the property line, it’d be tolerable.”
Ed Simpson of Port Byron has been fighting the project in Illinois. He understands Garner’s issue about having the line in a field rather than along a property line.
“You get the privilege of farming around it,” he said. “It is a nuisance.”
A group, the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, is fighting the project at the regulatory level and making sure property owners know their rights in the compensation process, especially if it reaches eminent domain action. The certified nonprofit had a presence at Thursday’s meeting and hopes to recruit members.
“Our goal is to give landowners choices and a voice,” said Diane Darr, a board member for the alliance. “It is not over if we can band together throughout the state. We can stop this.”
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