Landowners group discourages easement agreements

By Jim McCabe on May 3 at 12:06pm

A landowners group is encouraging those impacted by a proposed electricity transmission line not to sign easement agreements with Ameren.

Kelly Dodsworth and Steve Rahe, members of the Morgan-Sangamon-Scott Land Preservation Group, appeared on Friday’s edition of WLDS’ “What’s On Your Mind?” to talk about what they’ve been up to since the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a nearly 400-mile long transmission line through the state in February.

A section of the $1 billion Illinois Rivers Transmission Project would run past Meredosia, south into Scott County, and east through southern Morgan County.

Dodsworth says the group has been ruled against twice- first by the ICC, then an appeals judge- in getting the commission to re-consider the original proposed route, as the one the line is scheduled to be constructed through was originally an alternate route.

Dodsworth says the group is now proceeding through the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Appeals, and expects the ICC to file records with the appellate court by May 12th.

“When that’s laid out- which should be summer to fall- the appellate ruling will go back to the ICC with recommendations, and it’s our feeling that once the appellate judges get to see what’s going on with this situation, with the cost and the extra length, that the recommendations for the appeal will be for the ICC to use the existing route that’s 18 miles shorter and $36 million less expensive,” he says.

In the meantime, Rahe says Ameren is making contact with landowners and beginning easement negotiations.

“From what our advice is from our attorneys is to go ahead and have a conversation with Ameren, but as you do that, ask for copies of their appraisals that Ameren is performing on your land and keep all hand-outs of materials given to you by Ameren or the right-of-way agent,” says Rahe.

“But what we are suggesting you do is to seek competent legal counsel before you sign, because there’s a lot of things to take into consideration. It’s just not about a negotiated price on your property, but it’s about future rights that you will have going forward with this right-of-way.”

Dodsworth says there are seven appeals going on with this project, including the Morgan-Sangamon-Scott Preservation Group.

The 345,000-volt transmission line, using steel poles with a single shaft, will run from Palmyra, Missouri, crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy and continue east to Sugar Creek, Indiana.

Dodsworth says land agents for Ameren have threatened condemnation elsewhere, but that won’t happen here due to a lack of legal recourse. He says there’s no time frame landowners have to sign contracts, and that there are multiple issues that still need to be worked out.

“The easements are not in the favor of the landowner. They’re allowing 100 percent access to the entire farm, even if they’re only using one section, one tiny corner. That needs to be addressed before you sign the contract,” says Dodsworth.

“They can add additional structures; there’s no limit to the structure design. It could be a four-pole instead of a single-pole type design. They can add underground utilities.”

If you are a landowner with questions about the project, Dodsworth says you can call 473-5392.

The project should be completed by 2019.

You can listen to the full interview with Dodsworth and Rahe on the “What’s On Your Mind?” section of our website.