Dozens of landowners from Clay, O’Brien and Palo Alto counties attended the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance’s informational meeting about the Rock Island Clean Line Wednesday evening at the Hap Ketelsen Community Center in Everly.
The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance is a group that represents “all landowners and people opposed to Rock Island Clean Line in the entire state of Iowa.” Wednesday night’s meeting was the Alliance’s response to the 17 informational meetings RICL conducted across Iowa to explain and promote its electric transmission line project. If the transmission line is built, it would transport wind energy from northwest Iowa east to Illinois.
“The Alliance’s mission is to stop unnecessary transmission lines – not all, just the unnecessary,” Carolyn Sheridan, spokesperson for Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, said.
Rock Island states that the transmission line will provide energy to “1.4 million homes per year.” According to Sheridan, not a single home in Iowa will benefit from this energy.
“It is a private, non-regulated, merchant high-voltage power line,” she explained. “This means the energy will be converted from AC to DC in O’Brien County and transported across the state to the converter station in Illinois, where it it will be converted back to AC and sold to companies to power homes in Illinois and other states east of us.”
Since the power line transfers electricity as DC, Iowans cannot access the energy for use as it travels across the state. The electricity needs to be converted back to AC before it can be used to power a home.
“If a high-voltage power line is built in a state, we think it should benefit the people in that state, as well as those the power is being transferred to,” Sheridan said.
Alliance is also opposed to the fact that Rock Island would have the ability to use eminent domain to obtain the land needed for the transmission line through Chapter 478 of the Iowa Code. According to Chapter 478, Rock Island must obtain an electrical transmission franchise through the Iowa Utilities Board. If the IUB issues RICL a franchise, RICL will be able to petition to use eminent domain if it cannot obtain all the land necessary from landowners voluntarily.
“We as landowners should have equal choice and be able to say no if we don’t want to sell our land,” Sheridan said.
Alliance and representatives from different counties affected by the Rock Island transmission line met with Gov. Terry Branstad the previous week to explain their position on the project. Sheridan said the governor was in support of the group on the issue of eminent domain.
“He said to us during our meeting, ‘My understanding of the use of eminent domain is when a project will benefit the whole community involved and only one or two people are not in favor of it. I’ve never known eminent domain to be used for a project this large that impacts this many people,'” Sheridan said, quoting the governor.
Currently, RICL is in the process of petitioning for the franchise under Chapter 478. Sheridan informed landowners they can file objections to the proposed project until the IUB accepts the the petition and a notice of a public hearing is published in a newspaper twice.
“You have a right to file these objections,” Sheridan explained. “The Iowa Utilities Board will read every single objection when considering the franchise. So far, more than 500 objections have been filed. Never before has this many objections been filed before.”
Jerry Crew, an Alliance board member, told the crowd of landowners that even though a large number of objections have been filed, more are always welcome.
“We are confident we are going to win this, but we have to assume we are losing and get more people involved,” Crew said. “Every little bit helps. We can’t back down; we have to stay strong.”
Finally, the Alliance said it is not satisfied with information being put forth by Rock Island about the transmission line project.
“A lot of landowners want to know what will happen to their land values if they sign the easement,” Sheridan explained. “We don’t know for sure. Julie Rasmussen, who works as a land agent for Rock Island Clean Line, told landowners at an informational meeting, ‘My personal opinion is that it’s not going to impact the value of your land.’ Her personal opinion means nothing to me or landowners. We want facts.”
“I attended the second informational meeting (RICL) had in Clay County and the 17th meeting,” Cindy Koenig, an Alliance board member explained. “And at both meetings, they still couldn’t tell us anything definite about the possible health effects this transmission line will have. They tell us they’ve never done a project this big or long before, so they don’t know. If they had solid facts, it would be so different, but they don’t have any.”
The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance will continue to conduct informational meetings like the one in Everly across Iowa until the IUB announces acceptance RICL’s petition for franchise and sets a public hearing date, which is expected to occur sometime at the end of January. Landowners wanting more information about the Alliance or how to file an objection can visit the Alliance’s website www.iowastopricl.com
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