GRUNDY CENTER | Opponents, in many cases landowners, attacked the proposed Rock Island Clean Line Wednesday morning, finding fault with the proposed electric transmission line’s route, belittling potential benefits and criticizing the concept in general.
The objections surfaced during a question and answer session during a public meeting in Grundy Center hosted by the Iowa Utilities Board and the company. The session was the third in two days. Another with similar complaints played out Wednesday afternoon in Waterloo.
A fifth was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. today at the community center in Brandon.
Dennis Puckett, an attorney for Clean Line, said the company wants to work with property owners, tenants and residents.
“Their goal is to gain all voluntary easement agreements,” Puckett told the crowd.
Dennis Kruger, who farms near Dike, advised others in the audience to steer clear.
“I would recommend everybody here, don’t sign that easement. And I would recommend don’t even talk to them,” Kruger said.
Kruger established Kruger Seeds in the 1960s but is no longer involved in the company. He said he has a 450-acre and a 350-acre parcel that would possibly be bisected by the proposed transmission line. He threatened a class action lawsuit to block Clean Line’s plans.
“This will not be easy for you,” Kruger told the company’s representatives.
If granted a franchise by the Iowa Utilities Board, Clean Line intends to build a 500-mile transmission line from O'Brien County in northwest Iowa across the state to Morris, Ill. The line could carry up to 3,500 megawatts and would cost $2 billion to construct.
The final public meeting is scheduled Dec. 5 in Scott County. After that, the company must wait at least 30 days before filing a petition requesting a franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board.
Beth Conley, Clean Line's representative in Iowa, expects the company to file its petition in 2014 before June 1.
"That's the next step in the regulatory process," she added.
If approved, the proposed time line allows two years for construction. The line would become operational in 2017.
Clean Line again laid out its plans to compensate landowners who host structures and overhead wires. In Grundy County, the company calculates 90 percent of fair market value for land at $11,800 per acre. The company uses $10,000 in Butler County; $10,400 in Franklin County and $11,300 in Black Hawk County.
The figure per acre for Buchanan County will be revealed at the meeting in Brandon.
Company representatives, however, reiterated farmers can continue to plant and harvest crops beneath the transmission line. They would not be able to erect structures and would have to work around power poles or lattice towers. Easements would also allow Clean Line to access its lines and poles when necessary for repairs, inspections and reconstruction.
Roger Johnson, a farmer from Cook, Neb., attended the session this morning. His wife, he said, owns land in Grundy County, which he argued is some of the best soil in the world.
“I farm rocks and sand. You’ve got land up here,” Johnson said.
Questioned about benefits to Grundy County, Beth Conley, Clean Line’s representative in Iowa, noted the company will pay $7,000 per mile in property taxes. The revenue would go to the counties and school districts the transmission line crosses.
Annually, the amount would be about $2.5 million in Iowa and about $200,000 in Grundy County. In Black Hawk County, the tax revenue would amount to $130,000, according to Clean Line.
Martin Stallman, 81, of Waterloo, owns about 150 acres potentially affected by Clean Line's plans. His land is near Garling Road northeast of La Porte City.
He hoped to gather information at the meeting but found the critics' numerous speeches distracting during what was supposed to be a time for questions and answers. The topics included run-on commentaries about potential health hazards, threats to wildlife, a bad experience with a natural gas pipeline and viability of wind energy.
"We had too many people coming in here with their personal interests, and that really messed up what they were trying to do here," Stallman said.
"I'd like to put a sock in it," he added.
Stallman said he hasn't decided whether to work with Clean Line and probably would not until after a discussion with the farmer who rents his acres.
As far as the company's proposed compensation package goes, Stallman said, the figures bandied about won't entice everyone.
"Well for some people it won't even be a starting point," he said.
Scott Koch of rural Hudson used time after the meeting to address a personal issue. He owns Koch Field near Hicks Road, and the transmission line would fall about 2,600 feet north of his airstrip.
"You don't ever want anything on the end there," Koch said.
He spoke to a land agent, who suggested lowering the transmission line might be possible, according to Koch. That solution, though, might create problems for the nearest landowners, Koch added.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said.