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GUEST COLUMN

Is your farm up for grabs?

June 2, 2016
By JANNA SWANSON - Ayrshire-area farmer , Farm News

An out-of-state company has laid claim to a 145- to 200-foot swath the entire length of our farm.

It is going on three years since they told us that they claimed our land, but what bothers me is that they didn't have to tell us before they proposed this easement or that the way they told us was by certified letter. We were told that our land had been chosen for their project and that they would use eminent domain to take it as a last option.

We chose another option. We decided to fight it. We had to organize landowners from across the state. It was not easy and certainly expensive. In the last three years we have learned much. First is that no one really cares about eminent domain issues until it happens to you.

We learned that companies do not have the right to take your land by eminent domain, they must get permission. It is a lengthy and expensive process. We also learned that once a company chooses your land for their project that they can keep that claim indefinitely. There are no laws in Iowa that give an end date for such proposals. They can sell the right to someone else some other big company who we have no idea what they will do.

Part of our farm was taken without our knowledge for as long as they want it and it has cost us thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to fight to keep it. We have lost the right to build anything, even wind turbines on or near that claim.

Disclosure of that claim upon our property would certainly effect our property values if we ever chose to sell.

The reason I write this is because more of these same proposals are coming especially for landowners who live in Western Iowa or between there and Chicago or other points farther east.

Mid American has proposed that they want to bring Iowa 100 percent renewable electricity. The only way to do that with wind turbines and no large scale energy storage yet available would be to erect three to four times as many turbines as we need and ship all the excess out of state so that we can displace the amount of fossil fuels that we still need to use because wind energy just is not available 24/7.

That means new transmission and Mid American has already filed its intent on April 14 with the Iowa Utilities Board.

Many may think that this is all necessary, that no one wants a power line and that they have to go somewhere. I disagree.

A 3500 megawatt power line like The Rock Island Clean Line (the one proposed on our property) would service about 2,000 1.5 MW turbines. Taking that power to Chicago would require about 3,000 200-foot transmission towers. More land would be taken for transmission than for turbines it would service.

All to send wind energy to people who already have access to it. Chicago has access to Lake Michigan which has better wind energy than all of Iowa but no offshore wind turbines because people do not want them in their view. Even their legislature has proposed bans on offshore wind projects.

Let this new industry propose lines that are buried. If some landowners are going to insist on turbines, the rest of us need to insist that asking us carry one-half of their project with no annual check and no choice they could at least offer an unobtrusive proposal.

These projects do not supply electricity to those that don't have it. They will supply a premium product at a premium price.

That is not a utility, it is commodity and should not have the power of eminent domain.

This new industry should have to deal with landowners upfront on a level playing field.

 
 

 

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