At least two area landowners have expressed some concerns for a proposed high-voltage, direct-current transmission line that is tentatively planned to come through Sequoyah County.
In a presentation at last month’s luncheon of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, Phillip Teel, manager of Clean Line Energy, said the company’s focus in the coming months will be to focus on landowner concerns.
Teel stated at that time that the best and cheapest of the various routes mapped out for transmission line, is the one coming through Sequoyah County.
That route could be fine-tuned by the Department of Energy, depending on an Environmental Impact Study.
Clean Line Energy is proposing to deliver high-voltage, direct current wind energy from the panhandle of Oklahoma to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The lines will carry 600 kilovolts of electricity.
Sallisaw landowner Steve MacDonald is not so certain he wants the transmission lines coming across his property and he believes, by looking at route maps, that is exactly what will happen.
“I have several issues. Property values, for instance. My concern is we may see a 10 to 30 percent drop in property values,” MacDonald said. “I’m also concerned I might not be able to sell my property. That should be a big concern to property owners.”
MacDonald said as far as he knows there have been no studies to determine if there are any health issues involved with direct current transmission lines.
He wants to know how the project will affect his ad valorem taxes. “How is my property going to be appraised? Surely, my land will be appraised for less,” MacDonald said.
“This area gets several tornadoes a year. What if a line goes down? Who takes care of that?” he said.
MacDonald said he is drafting a petition, primarily to present to area landowners and get the names of property owners that still haven’t been told the exact route, and there is a Facebook blog called Block Plains and Eastern Clean Line: Oklahoma. Landowners or other concerned citizens can go to the Facebook page to get information or voice their concerns.
The biggest concern voiced on the Facebook page has been the question of eminent domain and whether or not Clean Line will be able to come in and take the land. While they believe Clean Line does not have the power to invoke eminent domain, some in the Facebook group fear Clean Line will be joined in the project by Southwest Power Administration and the Department of Energy, which they believe does have power of eminent domain.
“I think if this thing comes in, they should bury it (the transmission line),” said MacDonald.
Kathy Wilburne, another landowner who says she and her husband live “within shooting distance” of where the line will go in, believes the project is historically, environmentally and ecologically bad for the area.
A member of the Sequoyah County Historical Society, says there are historic sites of the Cherokees and family burial sites that have been in that area since before statehood. She said the route Clean Line is proposing would impact those sites.
“They just can’t do this to the families that are homesteading out here and want to pass this legacy on to their children,” Wilburne said. “They’ve told us, but we have seen nothing in writing about how careful they will be or how they will reclaim the land.”
Wilburne said the group of landowners is anxiously awaiting an Environmental Impact Study they believe is scheduled to be released Dec. 12. She said she hopes the study will include information from the fish and game department.
She said landowners in the area are beginning to see the return of wild turkeys and eagles in the area, and she is afraid the transmission towers will disrupt migration patterns.
“I’m all for clean energy and the project is a good project, but just not for this area. No one wants to see their property torn up. I’m all for getting off fossil fuels, but not this way,” Wilburne said.
Editor’s Note: The following is a response to the above concerns from Mario Hurtado, executive vice president, Clean Line Energy.
“A recent article in this paper highlighted questions from a local landowner about the Plains & Eastern Clean Line electric transmission project. I would like to take this opportunity to address some of these concerns.
“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line will help unlock the value of one of Oklahoma’s most abundant natural resources, wind energy. This infrastructure project will spur billions of dollars in investments in new wind farms in Oklahoma, which will create demand for thousands of jobs in construction, operations and manufacturing.
“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line will deliver more than 3,500 megawatts of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle, where it is abundant and inexpensive, to communities in Arkansas, Tennessee and other states in the Mid-South and Southeast, areas that lack access to new, low-cost, clean energy.”
“Research shows that transmission infrastructure does not lower property values on agricultural land over the long-term. In instances where there is an effect on property values, the effect decreases with time and with distance from the transmission line.
“Clean Line is offering a market-leading compensation package to landowners for an easement which in most places will be 150 to 200 feet wide. Compensation includes 100% of the fair market value of the land within the easement area and additional payments for each transmission structure on the landowner’s property, which will be paid at the landowner’s preference as an upfront one-time payment or annually for the life of the project.”
“We understand that each and every landowner will have specific concerns relating to his or her land and for that reason, we are allowing plenty of time for negotiations with each individual landowner along the route. Clean Line is committed to conducting transmission line easement negotiations in a manner that is comprehensive in its respect for the private property rights of landowners to support voluntary transmission line easement acquisition.
“Clean Line seeks to negotiate all easement agreements on a voluntary basis and is committed to working with landowners to minimize impacts of the project to their properties. In most places, the final easement for the direct current transmission line will be 150 to 200 feet wide.
“In order to assure that infrastructure projects in the public interest can be completed, the entities building them may have the right to condemn certain easements. Plains & Eastern Clean Line views the use of eminent domain as a last resort that is appropriate only after exhausting all reasonable attempts at voluntary easement acquisition. In all cases, landowners are entitled to due process and payment of market value for any easement acquired.”
“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line will provide a new stream of taxes and other revenues to the state and to local communities. The millions of dollars in additional revenue throughout Oklahoma can be used to support public schools, roads, police, ambulance and other community services for decades to come.”
“There are no known long-term health impacts to people, farm animals, wild animals, or crops from the electric and magnetic fields associated with high voltage direct current transmission lines. The magnetic field of a direct current line is similar in nature to the natural magnetic field of the Earth (the same field that allows a compass to work), and the strength of the magnetic field while standing beneath the conductors is comparable to the strength of the Earth’s field.
“The static electric field of a direct current line when standing beneath the conductors is ten times weaker than the static electric charge you may get from walking across a carpet on a dry winter day.”
Safety concerns regarding tornadoes
“Tornados are a part of life in Oklahoma and are something for which utilities must be prepared. Our transmission lines are engineered specifically for weather typical to their location. In the case that a tornado damages our line, the line will be de-energized in a fraction of a second.
“Clean Line will have an emergency response plan and materials for reasonable contingencies so that service is restored and any damaged equipment removed as quickly as possible. The local electric grid operator has completed power system studies to assure that, even in an instance where the line is knocked completely out of service, the rest of the grid will operate reliably until our line is working again.
“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is an unprecedented opportunity to bring new jobs and revenues to Oklahoma. We are committed to developing the project so that benefits accrue to local communities for years to come. Thank you for providing this opportunity to provide information.
“We encourage you to visit www.plainsandeasterncleanline.com or call our toll-free number 1-877-573-2851 to learn more about the project and ask questions. We are also available to meet with stakeholders in person and talk one-on-one. We are interested in your input.”
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