Last week we headed east to Cherokee, Iowa, to attend a public meeting on a new electric transmission project, Rock Island Clean Line.
The open house meeting in Cherokee was one in a series hosted by Clean Line Energy, the company in charge of developing this line. Taking place across Iowa and western Illinois, the meetings are meant to inform landowners about the proposed route and address any questions or concerns citizens may have.
The line has the potential to deliver 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy, mostly wind, from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota, as well as create more than 5,000 construction jobs and more than 500 permanent jobs to maintain and operate new wind farms and the transmission line.
In attending the meeting, we were interested to learn how Clean Line is taking into consideration the concerns and priorities of a broad set of stakeholders affected by clean energy transmission.
It was impressive that they had adopted a very literal “open house” format, complete with a sign-up table and a host of staff, all ready to address the specific concerns of the one-hundred attendees who filtered in and out throughout the morning.
There was a table in the middle of the room covered with maps, outlining study corridors in bright yellow. Large display boards lined the room, all meant to illustrate valuable information and answer any question attendees might have. There were around twenty employees in attendance, there to answer any question the display board might have missed. Very friendly employees, equipped with note cards and a smile. There were also plenty of reports, handouts, and promotional material available.
After circulating the room and reviewing the posted information, we spent over an hour talking with those in attendance. We had a good discussion with Hans Detweiler, Clean Line’s Director of Development, and Bill Andersen, the state senator representing Cherokee and surrounding areas. Hans was helpful and engaging, ready to answer the questions we had about technical aspects of the proposed route. The senator enthusiastically expressed support for the economic opportunities the line will bring to the region. A woman on the board of economic development for Cherokee county was excited about these same benefits for the community.
We also spent time talking with many of the landowners and community members in attendance. Overall, the community was very supportive. While the majority of those in attendance enjoyed the session and found it informative, some attendees were hoping for even more information about payments and regulations before they would sign an easement agreement. A curious amount of people were actually most concerned with frequency of maintenance and whether the lines would be supported by a two pole system or a one pole system.
Some landowners were already hosting turbines, and were looking forward to an additional income opportunity. Some were honestly hoping that their land was chosen - going as far to bring a Clean Line employee to the maps to show where they live and explain why it would be an ideal place to build. Others were wind developers, hoping to find out more in order to connect a development to the line.
In addition to this excitement, some residents expressed concerns about the use of eminent domain, receiving a fair share of the profits, and where the wind energy will be delivered.
Overall, the meeting provided us with valuable insight to Clean Line’s plans for community outreach before the line is constructed, as well as an understanding of landowners’ opinions and concerns throughout the proposed corridor.
You too can attend a meeting, because this week and next week, Clean Line’s open houses are continuing throughout Iowa and Illinois, so take the opportunity to go find out what the Rock Island Clean Line project means for you and your community!
For more information on clean energy transmission and Clean Line’s open house meetings, call the Center for Rural Affairs at 402-687-2100 and ask for Johnathan, Brian or Alyssa.