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Locals react to RICL plan

Area reaction to a proposal for a new power line across the northern part of Bureau County is ranging from skeptical to negative.

On Wednesday, Rock Island Clean Line LLC requested public utility status and approval to build a 3,500 megawatt transmission line in northern Illinois. Both the preferred route and the alternate route cut directly across the northern townships of Bureau County, from Fairfield Township on the west to Clarion Township on the east.

Rock Island Clean Line, an affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners, based in Houston, Texas, proposes to carry electricity produced from wind farms in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa to Illinois and eastward. The overhead high voltage direct current transmission line would be about 550 miles long and carry up to 3,500 megawatts of electric power. The line would cover about 121 miles in Illinois.

There has been some protest to the line in Bureau County and elsewhere. In September, Bureau County Board member Steve Sondgeroth told the board there were a lot of upset people in his part of the county.

One of the issues bothering those residents was the company’s plan to ask for eminent domain to seize any properties it could not obtain by negotiation.

On Thursday, Sondgeroth said he was pleased to hear the request for eminent domain was not included in the application. Hans Detweiler, director of development for Clean Line Energy Partners, said the company would not request eminent domain unless all other efforts failed, and then it would be on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

Sondgeroth said there was strong opposition in his neighborhood. He said he had heard from many landowners who were opposed, and not from a single one who is in favor.

That was different when the wind turbines were proposed for the area, and some landowners were in favor while others opposed it.

Sondgeroth said the project would probably be more easily accepted if the route ran along section or property lines.

“Maybe the negotiations will go on, and it won’t be so bad,” he said. “But the devil is in the details.”

A more negative reaction to the filing came from Mary Mauch, one of the area leaders of Block RICL, an organization designed to stop the project.

“I find it highly prejudicial and suspect that they would drop the route in the middle of the busiest time of the year for those that are impacted the most,” Mauch said.

Mauch also questioned several points in an RICL press release.

The company claimed to have held more than 600 meetings in Iowa and Illinois to introduce the transmission project, answer questions and gather feedback on routing options. Mauch said only 26 of those meetings were held across Iowa and Illinois for landowners, and the rest were private meetings to advance the project.

Mauch also objected to the claim that RICL is committed to supporting local and Illinois-based beneficiaries of the project, and has announced a potentially $70 million agreement with Southwire Company to supply the aluminum and steel conductor for the line from its facility in Flora.

Mauch said her sources say they don’t have the facilities or the employees for it to actually be produced in Illinois.

Mauch said RICL quotes the advantages of what could be enabled by these transmission lines but don’t disclose the billions of taxpayer dollars included in that investment.

“Their biased studies leave out the disadvantages and negative financial impacts — just focuses on anything in their favor without weighing the negatives in the lump sum,” she said.

Anyone can submit evidence and arguments to the ICC regarding the RICL’s proposal. All of the material will be evaluated, and a judge will make a recommendation to the board, who will make the final decision. Detweiler estimated the case could take about 18 months for the issue to be settled.

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