Landowners and Developers Improve Energy Projects

A proposed clean energy transmission project, the Rock Island Clean Line Project, will transport up to 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy. The route goes from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota, extending 500 miles across Iowa and western Illinois.

Some landowners and farm groups in Illinois have shown concern over the Rock Island Clean Line project. They worry it might interfere with center pivot irrigation or will remove valuable land from production. Or that Clean Line will use eminent domain to acquire whatever land it wishes to use for the project.

These concerns are understandable, as the land in question is often the livelihood of the owners. Clean Line is taking steps to address some of these concerns, including forming an agricultural impact mitigation plan with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

This plan is meant to limit possible infringement on agricultural operations. And it speaks to Clean Line’s willingness to consider the concerns of local farmers and landowners. Some noted that Clean Line has purchased nearly 3,000 acres in easements – a right to use a portion of property without owning it – in Illinois, far too much land to take out of production. Since Clean Line will attempt to follow existing infrastructure routes and use monopoles in construction, only about 12 acres will be removed from production of the entire 3,000 acres.

Clean Line’s application for public utility status in Illinois has met with opposition as well. Opponent’s concerns primarily fall on the use of eminent domain, a process that can frustrate landowners. It appears to be a David vs. Goliath scenario of a small landowner fighting against a private company. Eminent domain can’t be used at-will. It requires that a project is needed and in the public interest for use to be warranted, as well as a review process.

These concerns are not unfounded. People should care about these processes. They should want to have their voices heard. Landowners who openly speak to utilities may be surprised that their suggestions and concerns receive greater consideration than they expected.

Developers like Clean Line have shown great interest in constructing an efficient project that delivers a product. It is in their interest to do so by working with groups, rather than against them, to achieve that goal. Voicing concerns and working with developers to address them only improves projects. Unwavering opposition only brings such conversations to a screeching halt. 

Find more information on the proposed Rock Island Clean Line here.