SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A Houston company that wants to build a
controversial 120-mile-long electricity transmission line through Illinois has
signed an agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
At least one of the chief sticking points for opponents —
the type of pole structure that will be used — is included.
“The agreement shows we will work with stakeholders and try
to find solutions to problems we hear about,” said Hans Detweiler.
Detweiler is the director of development for Clean Line
Energy, a Houston-based group of financiers who are seeking to build the
merchant transmission line.
The 3,500-megawatt project would move power generated by
wind farms in Iowa to a converter station located in Grundy County. The
electricity then would be marketed to utility companies, primarily in the
The project has generated a storm of controversy, much of it
from farmers and rural landowners who say the project would take valuable
farmland out of production, would create impediments for farmers trying to farm
the remaining ground and would lower the value of property.
The Illinois Farm Bureau has formally opposed the project
and is intervening in the case at the Illinois Commerce Commission.
The Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement or AIMA is a
standard agreement reached between the Illinois Department of Agriculture and
companies that want to build any structure on farmland, from power line projects
to major highways and railroads.
The agreement outlines the requirements that the private
company must meet, and it provides guidelines for restoring any damage to
“We will utilize a monopole-type structure,” said Detweiler,
listing one of the top sticking points for groups opposing the project. “For
typical straight-line structures, we will use only a monopole-style foundation.”
Farmers along the proposed route, which totals 500 miles,
have voiced particular objections to Clean Line Energy’s original plan to use a
lattice-type structure, which would require a larger base and would take more
land out of production.
Detweiler said that some lattice structures still would have
to be used. “Where you’ve got a heavy-turn angle, a longer stand at a river,
there are certain engineering challenges where you will still need a lattice
structure,” he said. “There will still be use of lattice structures, but that
will be limited to where there’s an engineering need for it. It’s going to be
mostly monopole structures or truss structures with a monopole base.”
The type of structure that would be used was one of the top
five concerns outlined by the Illinois Farm Bureau.
“We hope they’ll be pleased by the agreement,” Detweiler
Rae Payne, senior director of legislative and regulatory
affairs for the Illinois Farm Bureau, was not immediately available for comment
on the agreement.
Other concerns outlined by Illinois Farm Bureau included
Clean Line Energy’s application for public utility status in Illinois, diagonal
alignments along the route, alternate routing along the Interstate 80 corridor
and the company’s possible use of eminent domain, if it is granted public
Other issues covered in the AIMA address the issue of
organic and local farms and field tile.
Detweiler said the company addressed issues that farmers and
landowners identified as primary concerns.
“We heard the most about field tile, compaction and
structure types. We heard a lot about organic farm standards and then also the
independent agricultural inspector. This agreement touches all those things,” he
Detweiler said the field tile issue and organic farms would
be addressed by landowners themselves when they receive a preconstruction survey
from the company.
“We will send a preconstruction survey out to all landowners
to help identify and help us find where there is existing field tile and also to
find out if farmers are engaging in organic farming,” he said.
“We will try to site our structures to avoid directly
affecting the field tile. If we do need to put a structure on field tile, then
we will relocate the tile using the shortest possible reroutes that we can.
“We anticipate being flexible on whether we will hired the
contractors or let landowners choose and then reimburse them. We haven’t worked
out the details on that yet.”
Detweiler said the company also heard concerns about how the
proposed project would impact organic farms in its path.
“We were planning on sending out the construction survey, so
we are happy to add the question about organic farms. If we can avoid
applications of fertilizer or herbicide, treated wood and construction matting,
things to make sure nothing we are doing jeopardizes their organic
certification,” he said.
The agreement requires Clean Line Energy to provide 24 hours
notice via personal contact or telephone contact before accessing property to
perform construction, modification or repair of the line.
The agreement also requires Clean Line Energy to employ an
agricultural inspector. That inspector will verify the company’s compliance with
the terms of the eight-page AIMA.
Payne and Laura Harmon, legal counsel for the Illinois Farm
Bureau, in past meetings with farmers and landowners, have advised farmers and
landowners to make sure that a copy of the AIMA is attached to any agreement
they reach with the company for sale or lease of their land.