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Grissom wary of electric transmission project

PERU – Miami County officials say one proposed route for the new 70-mile Greentown-Reynolds electric transmission line would kill a future runway construction project at Grissom Air Reserve Base and could harm economic development in the area.

The Miami County commissioners officially asked project leaders Monday to eliminate a proposed route which runs the transmission lines and towers about 2 miles south of the base’s runway.

Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, wrote a letter to project officials expressing concerns about the proposed path. Tidd said initial studies show the height of the transmission towers wouldn’t disrupt current air traffic at the base.

But the line would prohibit the county from constructing a new air strip that Tidd said is essential for future economic development.

“For us to be successful in fully developing Grissom, we’re going to have to look at building a secondary runway,” he said. “We have a great asset in already having one that’s 12,500 feet long, but the problem is this: It’s a single runway.”

Tidd said a second runway would help accommodate Dean Baldwin Painting, which began painting and servicing commercial aircraft last year in a renovated airplane hangar near the base.

The county spent $13.8 million to expand and renovate the hangar to accommodate the company.

With Dean Baldwin Painting as its anchor tenant near Grissom, Tidd said the county is trying to woo other aviation businesses, like heavy aircraft maintenance and aircraft interior modification, to move into Grissom Aeroplex.

He said two developers are interested in building new hangar facilities at Grissom to accommodate Dean Baldwin’s growth.

To ensure current and future companies have access to a runway if one is closed for repairs or other reasons, Tidd said the county plans to build a second one.

The future runway project would construct a 9,000-foot air strip near the base’s current 12,500-foot runway. In total, the new runway would extend 8,000 feet beyond the current one.

But if the proposed transmission-line project runs near the base, Tidd said that would put the new runway too close to the transmission towers and violate Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Besides that, he said, officials at the base are still determining if the transmission lines, which will carry around 700,000 volts of electricity, would disrupt radar and radio signals at the base’s air tower.

Officials with the Greentown-Reynolds project have proposed four possible routes for the transmission lines, which will begin east of Greentown, and be placed to the north and west as the line travels through Howard County.

Potential routes could take the line near the eastern edge of Miami County and then north of the base, or straddle the Howard County line. All the routes end up at Reynolds in Carroll County.

“Given that there are so many other potential routes, we’re asking them not to consider this one,” Tidd said. “If they choose the route near Grissom, it’s going to be hard to build around that line, so we’re saying let’s get coordinated now and eliminate this route.”

Miami County officials aren’t the only ones who have weighed in on the impact of the project. Project officials recently held four public meetings where residents expressed concerns about how the lines would impact property values and farming ground.

Nick Meyer, director of external communications for NIPSCO, which is a partner in the project, previously said officials are taking public comments into consideration when selecting which route to build the line.

During a public hearing, he said officials will select the route that creates the least amount of disturbance for residents and has the smallest impact on affected communities.

With the prospect of the project having a potentially crippling impact on Grissom and the economy surrounding it, Tidd said he hopes project officials won’t build near the base.

“We hope they will seriously consider our request,” he said.

A final route is expected to be selected sometime in June, Meyer said.

The Greentown-Reynolds project is a joint effort between NIPSCO, Duke Energy and American Electric Power.

It is one of 17 priority projects required by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which controls and operates the transmission grid for 12 Midwest states, including Indiana.

Studies conducted by MISO determined that improvement projects such as Greentown-Reynolds are necessary to maintain the reliability of the grid while meeting local energy and reliability needs.