News Local/State

ICC Approves Ameren Line With Douglas, Piatt County Route


The Illinois Commerce Commission has given the go-ahead to a high-voltage Ameren transmission line that includes Douglas and Piatt Counties.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting in Chicago – the ICC approved the route on a vote of 3-to-1.

The ICC says it still wants more information before signing off on a 30-mile stretch of the project that'd run between Pawnee and Pana. Ameren Transmissions spokesman Leigh Morris says the utility is reviewing the decision but will likely ask for a rehearing on the excluded stretch.  I

A number of residents were concerned about farmland values when the utility company shifted a portion of the line from Moultrie County to Piatt and Douglas Counties.  About 200 attended a hearing in Tuscola to oppose the plan earlier this month.

Tuscola farmer Gary Appleby is with defend Douglas and Piatt Counties, and plans to talk with their attorney soon to seek a re-hearing before the ICC.

"I talked to a land appraiser the other day, and got his opinion" he said.  "He said it would it would probably devalue an acre of farm ground by 30 to 40 percent.  And if you had a house that ran within a couple hundred yards, how are you going to sell that house?  You're going to be stuck with it.  Nobody is going to want to live close to high voltage lines like that."

The lone 'no' vote Tuesday came from ICC Chairman Doug Scott, who said a measure approved a couple years ago by Illinois lawmakers gives commissioners too brief a window for approval. 

Despite backing the power line, Acting Commissioner Miguel Del Valle expressed similar concerns about that legislation.

“I think that while there is consensus around the need for this project – and I concur with the process itself, I think it’s left a lot to be desired," he said.

The route of the power line will move forward unless the commission approves a request for a re-hearing.

Objectors to the project have 30 days to do that, and the ICC has 20 days to respond.

 The $1 billion, 380-mile transmission line would run through 19 counties, traveling from Quincy to the Indiana border, near Terre Haute. It'd affect about 8,400 landowners.

Morris said construction is expected to start no later than April of 2015.  But he said the first step is land acquisition through easements, as well as engineering work.

The transmission line will also run through parts of Edgar, Moultrie, and Clark Counties.  It will start in western Adams County, where the line crosses the Mississippi River. 

At Pawnee (just south of Springfield), the approved segments of the line stop and then pick up again at the Macon County line east of Decatur, and run through the Piatt County town of Kansas, through the substation there, and then to the Indiana border.