Local landowners fight possible eminent domain - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local landowners fight possible eminent domain

PEOSTA (KWWL) -- A group of landowners is fighting plans for a power transmission line that would run through their properties.

On Tuesday morning, the landowners will bring their complaints against ITC Midwest before the Iowa Utilities Board. That consists of three appointed members who cannot be of the same political affiliation, according to Iowa Utilities Board spokesperson Rob Hillesland.

ITC Midwest wants to build a 81-mile-long, 345 kV transmission line from the Salem substation to the Hazelton substation. That would mean the company would need private land in four counties: Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson.

"It's part of what we call a reliability loop that is serving the eastern Iowa area in order to improve reliability and the quality of electric service in that region," ITC Midwest spokesperson Tom Petersen said.

Petersen said the company has 96 percent of the land it needs and that 4 percent of landowners are still holding out.

Rick Reuter and his son Dan are two of those landowners. The two own Reuter Dairy in Peosta. With more than 500 acres of land, between 675 and 700 cows and three generations of Reuters invested in the business, they said they are not willing to give up.

"I'm not going to go down without a fight," Dan Reuter said.

The Reuters said they are worried stray voltage from the transmission line would hurt their livestock.

"Dairy cattle, especially, are very sensitive to stray voltage," Dan Reuter said. "The power company says there is no problems with that, but yet they have yet to come up with a dairy that is operating close to the power lines that's successful."

"The line we're proposing is certainly fairly common across the United States," Petersen said. "There are nearly 65,000 miles of lines in the country that are at this voltage or higher."

The Reuters also worry about the transmission line lowering the value of their land.

"I understand power's got to move and it's got to go somewhere," Rick Reuter said, "but, you know, why not stay away from residential and livestock operations and find the people that want it, that want to take the money?"

Hillesland said most power companies seeking permission from the Iowa Utilities Board to build a transmission line try to get as many voluntary easements as possible before filing the official franchise petition.

"If the utility is unable to secure all voluntary easements, it has the right to petition the IUB for the right of eminent domain," Hillesland said," and the IUB has the authority to grant eminent domain to the extent that it is necessary for public use."

Hillesland said the landowners could also appeal after the board makes its decision.

Dan Reuter said he would fight "as long as it takes, until someone tells us we can't. We feel we don't have a choice."

"I couldn't live with myself knowing that you didn't give it your all to fight it," Dan Reuter said.

At the 9:30 Iowa Utilities Board evidentiary hearing Tuesday morning, both the group of landowners and ITC Midwest will have the chance to state their side.

The board is holding part of the hearing later in the year, so a decision about eminent domain will not be made until as early as this fall.

The meeting is at the Delaware County Community Center and is open for the public to attend.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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