Electric coop adding transmission lines; easements needed again
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County will have to deal with utility easements for the third time in less than a year, when an electrical coop looks to add transmission lines through the county.
At Monday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Douglas Aeilts, CEO of Northeast Power, updated county officials on a project that will emanate out of Missouri through northeast Clark County and move northeast through Lee County.
The project, entitled the Winchester-Franklin Switch Station Line 187 Project, will move along a pre-existing transmission line from Belfast Road northeast over Argyle Road continuing northeast across Ambrosia Lane at 250th Avenue.
The proposed double circuit transmission line is designed to cross Hwy. 218 northeast to 235th Street. At that point, a new single transmission line is planned heading due north across Hwy. 2 across Golden Road and then north across West Point Road just north of Chalk Ridge Road.
Aielts said the Iowa section of the project is valued at about $8 million.
Northeast Power is a generation and transmission cooperative and they own all the transmission lines that serve their electrical systems. The company has five distribution coops in Missouri and three in Iowa, including Access Energy out of Mt. Pleasant.
The move doesn’t require any approval from the county, but it does have to navigate the state-mandated Iowa Utility Board requirements.
Landowner letters have already been sent out and the next step is a public hearing hosted by the Iowa Utilities Board. The IUB has already had two other public hearings in the county in the past 12 months on pipeline projects associated with a carbon capture line proposed by Heartland Greenway and an anhydrous ammonia pipeline with NuStar.
The purpose of the hearing with the IUB and Northeast Power is to inform property owners of their land rights. That meeting is scheduled for the American Legion in West Point on April 19 at 5:30 p.m. and is open to county residents.
“We can’t talk to landowners about easements until we have that hearing,” Aielts said. “We can actually talk to them about routes, but then it’s hard not to talk about easements in the process, so we just don’t do either one.”
He said 99% of the easements are usually secured voluntarily and said they don’t like to use eminent domain if they don’t have to.
Aielts said that with all the other pipelines coming in needing easements, and some of the stories coming out of them, could make acquiring easements a bit tougher. But he said the company’s reputation in dealing with property owners should make things easier, coupled with the fact that this project is above ground.
The company still has to go back to the IUB if they do have to move toward eminent domain to secure workspace.
“If we need to do that it’s usually the last one or two easements of some landowner that we just can’t negotiate with. Then we have to go back to the Utility Board and ask for that permission. We don’t have that permission by statute.”
Aielts said it takes about a year to get the easements and to get the franchise from the state of Iowa. He said the utility offers 75% of the value of the property to be interrupted to landowners.
All Northeast Power’s energy generation comes from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. There is no generation in Iowa. The transmission lines move the energy into Iowa. The lines are needed to provide enough capacity to serve the company’s generation loads in Iowa.
“We need to build another line for the future to make sure we have enough capacity to serve everything we’re responsible to serve in Iowa,” he said.
The lines would be capable of transmitting 161K volts, but Aielts said normal usage would be about 60k volts once operational.