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Grundy County Board meets about Rock Island Clean Line project

MORRIS – A packed boardroom brought questions and concerns to a public meeting held Thursday eveing regarding the Rock Island Clean Line energy project.

The meeting went late into Thursday evening and this story was filed before its conclusion.

The meeting was organized by the Grundy County Board, before it is scheduled to vote on tax abatements for a $300 million RICL converter station to be housed within the county.

The energy project involves channeling 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from Iowa to Illinois through a series of above-ground transmission lines, which will traverse through a handful of Grundy County farms.

The electricity pipeline would begin in O’Brien County, Iowa, and span 500 miles, ending at a large converter station in Grundy County. At the station, electricity would be converted from direct current into alternating current energy and then injected into the power grid.

Two years ago, Grundy County signed term sheets with Clean Line, agreeing to – in good faith – provide tax abatements to the company in exchange for its housing the converter station in Grundy County, which is projected to bring significant tax revenues to the county.

But Clean Line had to answer tough questions form several members of the public and the County Board during Thursday’s meeting in which presenters from Rock Island Clean Line, local school districts, Grundy Economic Development Council and the village of Channahon and RICL opposition groups were allowed to speak.

A representative from Senator Sue Rezin’s office also was present to read a letter of opposition from the senator.

Conerns were raised about the project as a whole and the percieved lack of protections built into Clean Line’s proposed agreements with landowners.

“How many of you on the board would go for this project if it was coming through your front yard?” one presenter asked the board.

As it stands, the RICL project is awaiting approval from the Illinois Commerce Comission. As submitted to the ICC, the line must end in Grundy County. If the county decides against this by denying the abatements however, Clean Line retains the right to reapply with the ICC and move the station to Kendall County.

Even if Clean Line moved the station out of Grundy, the line would still cut through Grundy County on its way to Kendall County.

School districts, Mayor Joe Cook from Channahon and local union members spoke Thursday in support of the group, claiming the porject would bring revenue and create jobs.

“This project will create literally thousands of much needed construction jobs,” Steve Magruder from IBEW 176 out of Joliet.

However, some board members and a local attorney from Ottawa disagreed that the project would create jobs, as Clean Line has not committed in writing.