SPENCER, Iowa | With Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds on hand for a legislative forum Saturday morning, Webb, Iowa, farmer Jerry Crew raised several questions about the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project that no one brought up when the issue was discussed at previous Eggs and Issues sessions this winter.
The RICL is a proposed 500-mile high-voltage transmission line designed to transport electrical power from wind-energy-dense states, including Iowa, to energy markets farther east. The proposed path would run from near Granville, Iowa, to near Morris, Ill., through the farm Crew said he has plowed for 44 years.
Crew said he wanted the power generated in the area to be used in Iowa and questioned what would happen when “60 percent of the time the wind isn’t blowing – long-time average.”
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, told Crew electricity already comes from another grid. “All of our power doesn’t come from wind anyway.” Johnson explained. “They’re drawing power from wherever they can. We’re not blacking out in this country.”
Crew said Iowa would be losing locally generated electricity by not being able to access power from the the RICL project and questioned the interpretation of the “public purpose” that would be used in acquiring franchise and right of way for the project.
Johnson said Iowa is already exporting electricity. ”We’re generating enough power to take care of the state.”
“Iowa law states that that power does not have be be consumed in Iowa,” Johnson said, and Crew replied he believed the law was open to interpretation.
Reynolds disagreed with Crew, noting that she was confident the Iowa Utilities Board, not the Legislature, would properly handle the issue. She suggested Crew make an appearance before the board.
Johnson and Rep. Megan Hess, R-Spencer, both objected to a comment by Crew that the two had opposed the anti-RICL forces’ efforts to change the law by going through the legislative branch.
“We have not,” Johnson said emphatically.
“We have stayed neutral on this project because there is a process through the Iowa Utilities Board,” Hess added. “The Legislature is not the appropriate route for this.”
Other issues raised Saturday included a question about why the city of Royal wasn’t notified that it would be billed for state audit services only once every nine years instead of each year, which Mayor Florence “Fluff” Ihry said would be easier for the budgeting process.
Ihry said she also objected to lack of formal notification, adding the city clerk wouldn’t have known about the situation if she hadn’t read about it in a magazine.
Reynolds and Johnson both suggested Ihry take the issue to the Iowa League of Cities.
Prairie Lakes Area Education Association representative Linda Tim asked that AEA funding at least be maintained, if not increased, and told the lawmakers “we’re not getting the results we think we should have,” by spending more “windshield time” covering the 14-county region.
Hess was first to respond by displaying a huge printed chart she said was mailed to her home and explained she believed the material could have been emailed to save money.
Reynolds said, “The AEAs have actually seen recent increases in funding, partially because of the school (aid) formula.”
Don Miller, of Northwest Communications, in Havelock, Iowa, asked for support for expanded high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved areas, noting that even if services are available to every home and business across the state, the cost is often prohibitive.
Mike Heuck, of Everly, renewed his plea to the lawmakers to support legislation allowing individuals with neurological disorders to have access to capsules of oil extracted from marijuana to alleviate seizures and pain.
Hueck said his daughter suffers from seizures and takes dozens of pills each day, often without relief. He explained the drug is legal in several states and has the backing of the national Epilepsy Foundation.
A bill favoring Hueck’s situation was introduced too late this session to pass through committee but is expected to see action next year.
Reynolds, who had a Friday afternoon session with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, students in Spencer, explained the first year of the program saw 40,000 students involved and that this year the number will be more than 100,000.
Reynolds said the goal is to make sure every student in the state has access to STEM programs, “so they can start to see the relevance of math and science, and the impact that will have on their lives.”
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