ICC approves Coles-Moultrie route for power line
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved a route that would take the Illinois Rivers high-voltage transmission line through Coles and Moultrie counties.
The decision Thursday came as a relief to residents of southern Piatt and northern Douglas counties who mounted a campaign last summer to prevent the line from crossing their properties.
Erik Hammerstrom, who took part in that campaign, said the commission received 427 public comments on the case, half of which came from the Piatt-Douglas coalition.
Thursday's decision "made all those efforts worthwhile," Hammerstrom said.
Also Thursday, the commission agreed there's a need to build new or expanded substations at several places along the route, including at Rising and Sidney in Champaign County, Kansas in Edgar County and Mount Zion in Macon County.
In August, the commission approved Ameren Transmission's request to build the $1 billion, 345,000-volt line from the Mississippi River near Quincy to the Wabash River near Terre Haute, Ind.
A separate line that's part of the project connects the Rising and Sidney substations.
The line is expected to transmit wind energy from the West to Eastern markets, with the cost of construction borne not only by customers in Illinois, but by all customers in a multistate region.
The transmission line is expected to take several years to complete. It is expected to be placed into service as sections are built, beginning in 2016 and extending to the end of 2019.
Crossing the state, the 375-mile-long line is slated to run through substations in or near Quincy, Meredosia, Pawnee, Pana, Mount Zion and Kansas.
It was the section between Mount Zion and Kansas that generated the most controversy in East Central Illinois.
Ameren initially proposed a path that would pass largely through Macon, Moultrie, Coles and Clark counties.
But a group of Moultrie County property owners proposed an alternate route that would bypass their area and run through Douglas and Piatt counties instead.
That route — which would have taken the line near Atwood, Tuscola, Camargo and Oakland before continuing south to Kansas — was subsequently endorsed by Ameren.
But a group called Defend Piatt and Douglas Counties mobilized opposition, arguing that the proposed route was longer, affected more cropland and included more 90-degree turns than Ameren's original route.
They also said the proposed route would run through Illinois Amish country and through a Native American archaeological site south of Atwood.
After the commerce commission gave overall approval to the line in August, a rehearing was sought on the route between the Mount Zion and Kansas substations.
On rehearing, administrative law judges for the commission agreed that a more southern route, approximating Ameren's original route, made more sense. The commission on Thursday adopted their recommendation.