December 18, 2013

Wind energy project adjusts Highway 36 route options

By Ray Scherer | St. Joseph News-Press | December 17, 2013 |

A Houston-based company has revised potential routes for a wind energy network that will extend through Northwest Missouri.

Feedback from landowners, agencies, and other stakeholders has helped Clean Line Energy Partners update its map for a $2 billion, 3,500-megawatt, overhead direct transmission line across the state, dubbed the Grain Belt Express.

Clean Line held a dozen public open houses across Missouri this summer to gather opinions on the idea. Input has also come from letters, online submissions, and phone calls.

Clean Line Development Director Mark Lawlor said Monday the process helped reduce numerous potential route segments that had been under consideration. Those revisions have been released in online maps.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and operations are set to begin in 2018. The 700-mile line will reach from a Southwest Kansas wind farm, cross into Northwest Missouri, and follow a path into Indiana. It will serve a perceived need for increased electric power in eastern states.

“There’s still a number of different alternatives that can be utilized,” Mr. Lawlor said. “Mostly, there’s eliminations.”

In this region, planners have moved proposed routes farther south from U.S. Highway 36. The changes affect Buchanan, Clinton, and Caldwell counties. Two segments that would have run south of St. Joseph were deleted.

“It was suggested that we take a look at Highway 36” as a guide, Mr. Lawlor said of the initial plan. “We basically had to move it back south away from development along the highway.”

The proposals are now 1 1/2 to two miles south of the highway from their original conception and bypass homes and farms. Efforts have been made to follow property parcel boundaries for efficiency of the design.

“We have a whole list of routing criteria that we look at” that include structures, the environment, and landowners, Mr. Lawlor said of the choices. “You can’t necessarily pin it on any single factor.”

No other major alterations have been made with Clean Line’s projections for the Northwest Missouri portion of the Grain Belt route.

“The (Missouri) river crossing is pretty well set,” he said. The line would cross from Kansas into Missouri near the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Jentell Brees Access Area, north of Halls and south of Lake Contrary in the Halls Levee District.

The company soon intends to file a routing study and project application with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Conditional permission for a siting permit was granted by the Kansas Corporation Commission in November.

“We’re targeting March,” Mr. Lawlor said of the PSC filing.

A series of public hearings will be held in conjunction with Clean Line’s attempt to secure its permission in Missouri.

“There will likely be some (sessions) in the area along the route,” he said.

An office was recently opened in Polo, Mo., to address Caldwell County residents’ concerns about the transmission line. Residents in the area have organized opposition to the project and opposition has also surfaced in parts of Northeast Kansas.

The maps can be viewed at

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