Buchanan County residents concerned with a proposed electric transmission project met with county commissioners Thursday as part of a bid to block it locally.
About 25 people attended the meeting regarding the project, the Grain Belt Express, held at the Buchanan County Courthouse. The project is a 750-mile overhead, direct-current transmission line that aims to supply power from a wind farm in western Kansas to eastern states.
Jennifer Gatrel, vice president of the group Block Grain Belt Express Missouri, said the goal was to ask the commission to rescind a resolution the commission had approved in July 2013. George “Scotty” Murray, the county attorney, said in the meeting that the resolution allows utilities access to county rights of way.
“Missouri law states that if they don’t have permission from the commission, they cannot build the line here, because they can’t access the public roads, and so we’re asking that the commission just protect private property rights,” she said. “ … The landowners that are impacted and the landowners that aren’t are very clear, they do not want a private company getting eminent domain and for erecting the country’s largest ever DC (direct current) power line very close to people’s homes.”
Presiding Commissioner Harry Roberts said the commission will consider the issue and make a decision by the end of next week.
David McKnight, who lives on a farm south of St. Joseph, was one of the attendees. He said he hoped to see the commission rescind the earlier resolution.
“Just to send a clear message that they’re going to support the landowners, that none of the landowners want this to come through their property,” he said. “And since the Missouri Public Service Commission has already denied this project, we’re asking that our county commissioners also make that very clear in removing that letter of support.”
McKnight said the audience was made up of Block Grain Belt Express Missouri members. The fourth-generation farm owner said he’s been following the issue with great interest. He’s concerned with the threat of eminent domain by private companies.
“We’re just looking for the county commissioners to support the landowners and understand our farms aren’t for sale to the highest bidder,” he said.
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