GRUNDY CENTER | Landowners affected by a proposed high voltage electrical transmission line across Iowa were advised to look carefully at initial contracts offered for use and access to their land.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t sign this agreement the way it is,” said Roger McEowen, a professor in agricultural law and director of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.
McEowen spoke at a Thursday meeting, hosted by the Iowa State University Extension office to help landowners in the proposed power line route examine a proposed easement agreement from Rock Island Clean Line LLC. The group is planning to build about 500 miles of high voltage power lines to carry Iowa wind generated energy into Illinois.
McEowen went over portions of the initial easement agreement that Clean Line sent to landowners and provided to him. Some of the wording was too vague or open-ended, he said.
“It has broader language than I usually see,” he said.
As written, the agreement would give Clean Line five years to construct the project or the agreement would be terminated if the easement went unused for five years.
“I’d want to pin them down a little more on that,” McEowen said. “Five years seems unreasonable – it seems too long.”
Other areas are too specific, such as a damage clause that outlines Clean Line’s responsibility to compensate landowners for damage to improvements, livestock, and crops.
“What about pasture ground,” McEowen said.
He said areas of Iowa’s eminent domain laws are more strict than the provisions in the contract. Iowa law outlines compensation for damage to land, he pointed out.
“The word ‘land’ is a keyword,” he said.
The amount of compensation landowners receive should be based on various factors including type of soil, past productivity, disruption that the easement for the utility structures may cause to farming or livestock operations, he said.
About 50 people attended the meeting at the Grundy Community Center. Although the meeting was specifically about the easement agreement, some landowners don’t see the project as inevitable.
Eric Andersen, who owns land in Grundy County between Dike and Cedar Falls, said the meeting “provides me with a better understanding of the easements system.” He also is leading a group of landowners trying to build public support against the project or shift its route to use existing infrastructure and provide electricity to Iowa residents. The Clean Line plan calls for direct current lines to run the energy directly to Illinois and would not be used in Iowa.
“We definitely stand a fighting chance,” Andersen said.
For now, though, Andersen said the presentation was useful especially for those who see the project as a inevitability.
“Some people feel like this is going to happen anyway,” he said. The information at the presentation might help those land owners garner a more favorable agreement than the initial offer, he added.
Clean Line officials have held public meetings in other affected counties, including Franklin, Butler, Cedar, Black Hawk and Buchanan Counties.
The estimated $2 billion project would lead to billion of dollars more in new wind farm investments and create more than 5,000 construction jobs and about 500 permanent jobs. It would also move wind generated energy into market with high demand for electricity.
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