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Thousands voice concerns over Rock Island Clean Line

More than 1,000 Iowans have joined a group that opposes the $2 billion Rock Island Clean Line wind energy project which aims to build 2,000 wind turbines across Iowa and a 500-mile-long transmission line.

Carolyn Sheridan, who lives near Spencer in Clay County, is president of the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance. Sheridan says they have several concerns with the project and its potential harmful effects. “This project really is taking something and stating that it’s public use,” Sheridan says. “The ability to use eminent domain to take people’s private property for a high-voltage transmission line that will crisscross the state of Iowa, taking mostly prime farm land, is not acceptable.”

Sheridan says, according to state law, wind companies may invoke eminent domain through what’s known as the franchise process. One of the first requirements, she says, is to hold informational meetings. “Those are done, and then they can begin to negotiate with landowners,” she says. “But if a landowner says, ‘No, I’m not interested, I don’t care how much money you give me, I don’t want a high-voltage transmission line in the middle of my farm field,’ they still, if given a franchise status, can take your land by eminent domain.”

Sheridan says there have been 1,200 objections filed with the Iowa Utilities Board against the Rock Island Clean Line project. She says her group has hired attorneys and witnesses and will continue fighting the project. Developers say the power generated by the Iowa wind turbines would be transported via the new transmission line to Chicago and points east. The line would run through 16 Iowa counties.

Governor Branstad’s economic development director hails the project, saying it shows how wind energy can be a valuable Iowa export. Rock Island Clean Line officials previously announced Sabre Industries in Sioux City will make support structures for the transmission line.

The preferred route for the line would start in far northwest Iowa’s O’Brien County and exit in eastern Iowa’s Scott County, just north of the Quad Cities.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)