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Regulators OK final routes for electric transmission line

SPRINGFIELD – State regulators Thursday approved the final route of a controversial 375-mile-long power line project running across the mid-section of Illinois.

After previously delaying action on routes for Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois’ planned transmission line, the Illinois Commerce Commission signed off on the construction of lines from Pawnee to Mount Zion via Pana, as well as a line from Mount Zion to Kansas, which skirts to the south of Douglas County.

The $1.1 billion Illinois Rivers electric transmission project crosses into Illinois at Quincy and continues across the state to a spot near Terre Haute, Ind.

Ameren says the project – the longest ever in Illinois – will help the utility deliver low-cost power and improve the reliability and efficiency of the electric power grid.

“Today’s action by the ICC is welcome news for Illinois,” said Maureen Borkowski, chairman, president and chief executive officer of ATXI. “This project will benefit the state’s economy, create jobs and provide Illinois electricity customers greater access to a variety of low-cost energy sources, including wind energy.”

Landowners in the proposed path of the line raised concerns that the project will decrease the value of farmland and homes, damage field tile systems, interfere with GPS signals and block aerial spraying of pesticides and fungicides.

The ICC approved the need for the project and some of the project routes and substations in August. Thursday’s action resolved all remaining routes and substation location issues.

The question for regulators Thursday was whether the Pawnee-Mount Zion line would run through Pana or Kincaid. They ICC chose Pana. For the Mount Zion-to-Kansas leg, the regulators chose a route that avoids Douglas County.

The 345,000-volt transmission line, using steel poles with a single shaft, is expected to be under construction later this year.

Negotiations with some landowners to secure 150-foot-wide easements are already underway.

The cost of construction will not be borne only by customers in Illinois but rather will be shared by all customers living within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator region, which is a multi-state transmission area.

The project is expected to take several years to complete and will be placed in service as sections are built, beginning in 2016 and extending to the end of 2019.