MAP: This map shows the proposed location of the Clean Line Energy transmission line through southwest Jones County. The 500-mile overhead electric transmission line is proposed to run from northwest Iowa to northeast Illinois. (Illustration provided by Clean Line Energy)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
In December of 2012, a representative from Clean Line Energy Partners presented a proposal to the Jones County Board of Supervisors concerning a route for high-voltage, direct current (DC) transmission lines that would be placed throughout Jones County.
Since then, nothing has been done or said about this proposed project. Beth Conley, regional outreach manager with Clean Line, said at that time they were working on agriculture-impact studies, and hoped to have a solid plan in place by mid-2013.
As the year comes to a close, a public meeting was scheduled for Dec. 4 at the Lawrence Center in Anamosa. All landowners and adjoining landowners and county officials were invited to attend.
In a letter that went out to all property owners from Hans Detweiler, director of development with Clean Line, it stated that the project would be known as the Rock Island Clean Line, named after the Rock Island Railroad that stretched across Iowa and Illinois. Much like the railroad, the approximately 500-mile overhead electric transmission line is proposed to run from O’Brien County in northwest Iowa to Morris, Illinois.
“This project will connect some of Iowa’s best wind energy resources with communities in Illinois and other states to the east, areas that have a strong demand for renewable, reliable energy,” the letter stated.
Looking at this project, Clean Line is projected to make $7 billion in new wind energy projects, creating thousands of jobs. It will deliver wind energy to power approximately 1.4 million homes.
“Over the past three years, our team has conducted extensive research and public outreach in the project area. We have sought input from landowners, tenants, conservation and agricultural organizations, elected officials, community leaders, government agencies, and the public regarding routing options in order to determine the optimal route for the Rock Island Clean Line.”
After the Dec. 4 public input meeting, Clean Line’s next plan of attack is to “obtain regulatory approvals and to acquire easements for the construction, operation and maintenance of the line.”
After easements negotiations have been completed with landowners, Clean Line will finalize the route. Right now, the proposed route looks to start just north of Martelle, south through Greenfield Township, east along 30th Street, then south into Rome Township near the Cedar/Jones county border. The letter states, “Under Iowa law, Clean Line is not allowed to contact landowners to negotiate easements prior to the informational meeting.”
The cost of this project is estimated to be about $2 billion. The transmission line would be capable of transmitting up to 3,500 megawatts of energy. Construction is slated to start in 2015, pending approvals.
Already, this proposed project is being met with opposition from landowners in and around the route area in southwest Jones County. Dan Lambertsen of Martelle was present at the Jones County Supervisors meeting to voice his concerns and ask the Board to “refrain from making a resolution for or against” this project until they know more details.
“No one is excited about this project,” offered Lambertsen.
Clean Line explained in correspondence with landowners that “land under the transmission line can typically be used for crop production and pasture/grazing lands.” However, “there are restrictions on the placement of structures and planting tall growing trees underneath the transmission line.”
Some have asked if the transmission lines could be placed underground. The company said they are proposing “overhead lines because of the efficiency, reliability and cost. The underground application is untested for the power and voltage levels Clean Line Energy is proposing.”
Clean Line notes that the project “will be managed by a team of Clean Line Energy’s employees who have developed, financed and built ambitious projects in the renewable and traditional energy sectors…” The company has hired Kiewit Corporation out of Omaha, Neb., to oversee construction. “Kiewit has extensive experience using local content and local labor for construction projects, which was a key criterion in Clean Line’s selection process,” the company stated.
Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, sent a Letter to the Editor, offering his support in this project: “Just as Iowa leads the nation in producing and exporting corn, soybeans, eggs, and hogs, we can also lead the nation in wind energy. Iowa has enough wind energy to meet the needs of our state 44 times over. That’s why we need to support new infrastructure, like the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project, to allow Iowa to export this burgeoning crop. The Rock Island Clean Line is a $2 billion transmission investment that will spur many more billions in new wind farm development in Iowa. Communities hosting the transmission line, in addition to those with the wind farms, will receive tax revenues that will support local governments and rural schools. And, landowners will be compensated fairly to have this critical energy infrastructure on their property. The Rock Island Clean Line will enable Iowa to grow its wind energy industry and continue to lead the country as a renewable energy pioneer. For these reasons, and so many more, I support the Rock Island Clean Line and encourage you to consider the positive impacts this project will have in your area.”
For more information on this proposed project, visit www.rockislandcleanline.com.