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Rick Gersema

December 21, 2014
Reinbeck Courier

They called us


As I sit down to put some thoughts on paper about a very deep concern that is very close to my families heart, I keep reflecting on something that was said about me and a host of others in a community meeting some months ago as we discussed the Rock Island Clean Line's project of constructing a high voltage transmission line through our farm along with a lot of other farms from west to east on its way to Illinois.

We were called "NIMBYs," which stands for, NOT IN MY BACK YARD. What I believe was being implied by Rock Island Clean Line is that all of the folks who are being asked to give up their farm land to support a "for profit" company are nothing more than spoiled, selfish, regressive and uneducated people who only care about themselves and what can be gained for themselves and not the "common good" which is being highly touted through this entire process.

As the old saying goes "Sticks & Stones.." However, I do take a little offense at those kinds of remarks made by people that don't know me or anything about me, my values, convictions or what I believe to be for the "common good" as well as the others who are my neighbors, friends and the 1540 owners of land that are also affected by this project. I wonder how the other landowners across the state like to be called by such a name?

For me, it really goes a lot deeper than just a silly bit of name calling. I could really care less what someone says about me but you see, we have a group of investors from Texas that are already wealthy billionaires who are seeking to impose their will upon peace loving, hardworking Iowa farm families who for many, have labored for a lifetime to purchase and own their own farms only to have that right of ownership threatened by powerful interests hiding behind the guise of "the common good." That seems a little contradictory in my mind because if those that are investing so heavily in this project are seeking the common good, then why are they going to profit from it when others are going to lose?

You might ask the question. How are you going to lose if this project gets approved by the Iowa Utilities Board? Well, here are a few things that will affect the landowner and others bordering the project.

1. If eminent domain is granted to a private company to take land for its own use and economic gain, it is potentially cracking the door for others to come behind and do the same thing given they have enough political clout and financing to pull it off.

2. There have been studies conducted indicating that land values could drop in a range from 10-30% on the overall property value.

3. While it has been said that health is not impacted by the presence of a high voltage transmission line, many credible studies have been inconclusive which basically means they don't really know for sure if your health can be affected.

4. There are concerns by many of the landowners about how this will impact their farming operations due to the height of the towers which affects aerial spraying and fertilizing as well as the access to the towers on the land for maintenance. A separate access is required and if you have a crop planted when they need to do their maintenance, you can kiss that goodbye.

5. Rock Island Clean Line is not listed in the 2012 Midwest Independent System Operator (MISIO) Multi Value project list as it has not undergone the conventional transmission planning process of MISO which is already established in the state, nor is asking for integration into this system but are proposing an entirely new corridor.

6. This transmission line is considered a commodity that can be sold on the open market to other investors which doesn't guarantee that who we will deal with now is going to be the company that has to pay when damages are incurred to our crops and land in order to do construction or maintenance.

For my family, this line will travel through the north 1/3 of our farm not following a fence row but smack dab through the field comprising nine acres of land. The foundations are 50 feet in the ground to support the tallest towers which are 150'. How will the construction impact the fertility of the soils along with our pattern tiling in and around the easement that will be compacted by heavy machinery and drill tailings? Sadly, this system does not benefit the people of Iowa as the electrical power is being transmitted 375 miles across the state and into Illinois where it will be converted back to A/C power and distributed to eastern metropolitan cities.

No, this is a project that may appear to be for the common good, but it is going to financially benefit a small number of people in the grand scheme, while it injures the good people of Iowa in its wake. Fortunately, a large number of landowners have understood the danger of supporting this venture and have expressed their objections to the Iowa Utilities Board who will rule on this sometime in the near future. RICL has only been able to acquire 12.5-13% of the total number of easements in Iowa over the last 15 months that they need to move the project forward. Everyone needs to really understand the impact this is going to have not only on those of us in the corridor, but around it. It is very important that landowners DO NOT sign voluntary easement rights to Rock Island Clean Line.

Rick Gersema

Pleasant Valley Township, Grundy County, Iowa



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