ICC OKs Ameren line across Douglas, Coles, Piatt counties
CHICAGO — The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved, with some changes, Ameren Transmission's proposed high-voltage transmission line across central Illinois.
The proposed 345,000-volt Illinois Rivers line would extend about 380 miles, with the main line running from Quincy to Terre Haute, Ind., a branch line running north to Ipava and a separate line connecting the Rising and Sidney substations in Champaign County.
The commission's decision Tuesday leaves intact the portion of the main line that would cross Piatt, Douglas and Coles counties, connecting substations in the Macon County community of Mount Zion and the Edgar County community of Kansas.
That section of the route was proposed as a substitute by Moultrie County property owners who did not want the line running through their county.
It was subsequently adopted by Ameren Transmission, which previously had recommended one of two routes through Moultrie County based on studies by the company's engineers.
Ameren Transmission spokesman Leigh Morris said the company will have to secure easements and do final engineering work before beginning construction.
Right-of-way work is expected to begin next year, with construction expected to begin no later than April 2015, he said.
The first section of the transmission line is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2016, with the entire project expected to wrap up by the fourth quarter of 2019, he said.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $1.1 billion.
The proposed route through Piatt and Douglas counties provoked an outcry from property owners there, who flooded the Illinois Commerce Commission website with public comments.
More than 200 residents of those counties turned out for an informational meeting Aug. 1 held by the Defend Piatt and Douglas Counties group.
That group has criticized the Piatt-Douglas route because it's not as direct as the Moultrie County route, it would pass through Illinois Amish country and it would cross a Native American archaeological site. They also said some property owners had not been properly notified.
Intervenors in the case have 30 days to seek a rehearing on the commission's decision, and the commission has 20 days to respond to any such petitions, ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch said.
If granted, a rehearing could take up to 150 days.
As part of Tuesday's order, the commission denied the construction of new or expanded substations at Rising, Sidney, Kansas, Mount Zion, Pana and Ipava, saying Ameren Transmission didn't provide sufficient evidence of need.
It also declined to approve a section of the main route between Pawnee and Pana through Christian, Macon and Montgomery counties, citing an inadequate time frame to consider evidence.
On Tuesday, Commission Chair Doug Scott was the lone vote against the line. Commissioner Ann McCabe and acting commissioners Sherina Maye and Miguel del Valle supported the order.
Del Valle said he felt the state Legislature erred in allowing the expedited handling of such cases. He said legislators did "not anticipate a project this large" when they approved quick consideration of such projects.
The short period hindered local governments and property owners from pursuing strategies for intervention, he said.
Del Valle said even though he was "not pleased with this process," he believes there is a need for the project.
He said the commission's administrative law judges did a "fantastic" job of ensuring proper analysis and giving all parties a say. But he noted the judges said they wished they had more time to consider the case.