Lately, I’ve been hearing the term “Bridge to Nowhere” used in reference to the 500-mile long DC transmission line the private company Rock Island Clean Line is proposing across Iowa and Illinois prime farmland.
The phrase refers to the fear RICL will get this power line erected at the rate of $4 million per mile only to find it has no western “clean energy” to transmit or no market to sell expensive electricity to on the eastern end.
Some people say, ”No big deal! It will just mean venture capitalists, a billionaire in Texas and three billionaire brothers from Park Avenue, New York City, will have made a poor investment choice and will have to suffer the economic consequences.”
The problem is we taxpayers and landowners will be the big losers. If RICL succeeds at the Illinois Commerce Commission and gets public utility status that they are requesting through docket 12-0560, RICL will also have a right-a-way contract that says there is an easement 200-feet wide through fields for perpetuity. It won’t matter if RICL goes under; they would still own right-of-ways across Illinois and Iowa forever and could rent or resell for other power lines or pipelines. That farmland would be unavailable for development forever.
For advocates of clean energy, that also means no wind turbines could be erected on those 12,000 acres of easement, and actually, it would take out 24,000 acres as 200-foot power poles would have to have 200-foot clearance on each side in case they ever fell over. The land’s value would be depreciated forever, forcing tax rates for others to go up to make up to for the counties’ loss of revenue. Productivity of the land would also suffer as aerial spraying, irrigation, weed control, compaction and drainage would be compromised. As world population grows, placing a larger demand on food producers, can we afford to remove fertile land from production for a private company’s folly?