Property owners across a corridor of northern Palo Alto County were updated on a proposed new power transmission line project during an informational meeting sponsored by MidAmerican Energy this past Wednesday in Emmetsburg. The project, known as MVP 3, is comprised of the construction of s 345 kilovolt transmission line from a new substation near Sanborn, in O'Brien County, and then proceeding east across Clay, Palo Alto and into Kossuth County at Burt, where the line then turns south to run to Fort Dodge. The total distance of the transmission line will be approximately 120 miles.
Wednesday's informational meeting at Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg was a requirement of the Iowa Utilities Board regulations governing such projects, and was designed to inform the public and landowners about their rights regarding such projects.
Jim Sundemeier, with the Iowa Utilities Board, explained property owners' rights, along with fair compensation and regulations that relate to land acquisition through eminent domain. "Any company building on private land must obtain the required permission to do so from the landowner, which is known as an easement," Sundemeier explained. "Now, if the company and the landowner cannot come to an agreement, the company can file a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board to obtain the land through the process of eminent domain."
To obtain land through the eminent domain process, a company must prove there is a significant need to serve the public through the use of the private property. Fair and just compensation, determined by the appropriate county Compensation Commission, would determine the compensation amount for the landowner in that case. However, landowners have the right, under law, to appeal through the process.
In regard to the proposed project, MVP-3, MidAmerican Energy's Jeff Gust, Vice President for Compliance and Standards, explained there are three primary benefits the MVP project will create. "The MVP project will make possible the expansion of transmission capacity for renewable energy sources and they will also help reduce some of the current congestion on the transmission network in the Midwest, and together, those benefits create the third benefit of greater reliability in keeping the lights on for you, our customers."
Karl Donaubauer, Senior Engineer with MidAmerican presented actual details about the transmission line. "The line running through Palo Alto County will cover 25 miles and will follow the existing Cornbelt Power 161 kV transmission line, which is constructed of "H" shaped strictures built with wooden poles. This line will replace those wooden poles with single steel poles, 120 feet tall. The Cornbelt 61 kV lines will hang on one side of the pole, while the new MidAmerican 345 kV lines will hang from the other side of the poles."
The existing Cornbelt Power transmission line runs 100 miles and had 800 wooden poles. All those structures will be removed and replaced by 644 steel monopoles. The existing wooden poles are 80 feet tall, spaced about 600 feet apart, with the lowest sag of the transmission lines being about 21 feet from the ground.
"The new steel monopoles will not require guy-wires or anchors, and will be spaced 1,000 feet apart," Donaubauer explained. "The line sag will be about 27 feet above the ground."
Each steel pole will require a concrete pad foundation, roughly six feet in diameter, with varying depths dependant on soil types and site conditions.
Before any physical construction can begin, MidAmerican Energy will now begin calling on property owners along the current Cornbelt Power Transmission line to negotiate for pole location and right-of-way easements. Once all easements have been obtained, actual construction is projected to begin in November of 2014, with construction slated for completion in December of 2016.
In explaining the right-of-way easement process, Mid-American's Dave Lane of the Right-Of-Way division explained that each landowner will meet with an agent to identify and determine the appropriate compensation for the use of their property for the project.
"To determine prices, we used a combination of methods and factors, starting with comparable sales of land in the area and in the county," Lane explained. "Full appraisals were conducted on five percent of the lands in the project and we determined the range of price to be from $7,500 per acre for lands in pasture or not in full production, to $12,500 per acre for land in full production."
Lane noted that additional payments for locating poles on property, as well as "air rights" where the transmission lines cross property, would also be negotiated. Also, any damages done to property during the construction of the line will be repaired and made good, which also includes any damage to drainage tile.