Local meeting set on statewide power line

Local meeting set on statewide power line

CHAMPAIGN — A second open house concerning a proposed $1 billion high-voltage transmission line that would cross the width of Illinois will be held later this month in Champaign.

The meeting, hosted by Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois, is one of several scheduled this month to discuss the 330-mile line that would extend from Palmyra, Mo., to about 500 yards into Indiana near Terre Haute. The Champaign meeting will be from 5 to 8 p.m. July 31 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S. Neil St., C.

Other meetings in the area will be held July 24 at Mount Zion, Shelbyville and Pana, July 25 at Sullivan, Hammond and Marshall, and July 26 at Kansas, Arcola and Charleston. A complete list of the meetings and their times is at http://www.actonenergy.com/ilrivers transmission/articles/itemid/1100/upcoming-events.

The transmission line, known as the Illinois Rivers Project, would extend into 19 Illinois counties, generally along and south of a line from Quincy through Springfield, Decatur and Charleston-Mattoon. It may go through Meredosia, where the federal government's FutureGen project is under development.

In addition to the main line, Illinois Rivers would include a separate, 28-mile line connecting Ameren's Rising and Sidney substations in Champaign County. That's the reason for the public hearing in Champaign.

The new transmission line is needed, Ameren Transmission spokesman Leigh Morris said, to help facilitate the delivery of renewable energy from as far away as the Dakotas, to strengthen the existing transmission grid and to strengthen pathways for additional low-cost electricity.

Electric customers throughout the Midwest will help pay for the project, Morris said. Ameren Illinois customers will pay about 9 percent of the project's cost, he said. Once approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, the transmission line will cost the typical Ameren Illinois customer 35 to 50 cents a month.

The exact route of the transmission line has not been determined. Possible transmission routes will be identified at the upcoming sessions. The exact route of the line will be decided, probably next year, by the Illinois Commerce Commission. At that time, Morris said, Ameren Transmission will begin negotiations with individual landowners,

The first segment of the Illinois Rivers line is expected to be completed in 2016, Morris said, with all construction completed by 2019. The line will be supported by single-shaft steel poles ranging from 80 to 120 feet high. Only at areas crossing the Mississippi and Illinois rivers will Ameren use old-fashioned steel lattice structures.

"Nobody can remember anything built like this," Morris said. "We've had large lines built before, but nothing that crossed the entire state. I've talked to people from our three legacy companies (Illinois Power, CILCO and CIPS), and they can't recall anything that was 330 miles long."

Ameren Transmission held an open house in Champaign last month to lay out the basics of the project. A third hearing will come in October when at least two specific routes for the transmission line will be spelled out.