AmerenIP had plans to erect a new 138KV power line right through the middle of the beautiful Fox River Valley. Over the course of the project planning, they have shown little regard for the effects this will have on the largest natural resource in this community, the wildlife in this wonderful natural habitat, the families living in the area, and the safe operation of businesses along the route.
According to law, Ameren has to propose 3 routes for these projects. They submitted what they believed to be 2 viable routes, and this 3rd route, just to satisfy the legal requirement. Against all the contrary evidence, this route was championed by the "IL 71 Resistors", landowners adjacent to the primary route. In public hearings, Ameren repeatedly argued against this route. The Ameren rebuttal testimony is very compelling. Landowners and other interested parties were told not to worry, this route would never be seriously considered. It had “way too many problems”.
In retrospect, it is clear that Ameren engineers really wanted their primary route. So, they picked a secondary route that wasn't as good and quite a bit more expensive, and a third route that no person in their right mind would choose. Unfortunately, the Ameren legal team was told to get a route, any route, as quickly as possible. The engineers thought they could effectively circumvent the law requiring 3 routes, but in this case, it backfired on them.
Then, with the opposition distracted, negotiations began, behind closed doors, to move the power line to this route. Based on their own testimony, this route is the most costly, affects the most people, has the greatest environmental and visual impact, and is clearly most undesirable.
This route was decided by agreement, not by consideration of the evidence. But with the affected parties told “not to worry”, the agreement excluded their input.
Imagine being told that your Aunt needs a kidney, but you are not the right blood type. As you arrive at the hospital with your family to visit your Aunt, you find out that you will be the donor.
In contrast to the original proposed routes, this route requires the clear cutting of tens of thousands of additional trees in the Fox River Valley, destroying sensitive habitat for endangered species and Bald Eagles. This route passes very close to numerous homes in the very congested historic community of Dayton, opening a “gaping hole” in the only densely wooded section of the entire route area. This route passes through a skydiving landing area, which will result in unnecessary fatalities by electrocution. In consideration of the public good, this route is clearly the worst possible option.
The Fox River Alliance does not wish to stand in the way of progress. The planning for this line, however, has been inconsiderate, ill advised, and most likely illegal. The Fox River Alliance has been able to get this process reviewed, and the line is now being moved to a better route. This Ameren plan was a horrible abuse of power and a dangerous example of state regulatory agencies gone wrong. Completion of this project, as proposed, was clearly not in the best public interest.
As of September 29, 2009, the Illinois Commerce Commission responded to public outcry and reopened this case for the route to be reconsidered. We then have a legal avenue to make our case, and insure fairness in the ultimate routing of this transmission line.
As of October 11, 2009, we hired an environmental expert, who worked at half his regular rate because of the specifics of this case. We were asking for donations of any size to cover his costs. No money went to volunteers. Every volunteer actually contributed money to the fund, and many paid other expenses. Together, with your help, we came up with the money to pay our expert, so there is no longer a need to donate.
As of December 15, 2009, with our short extension granted, we submitted convincing evidence on our behalf. I went as far as proposing a low impact route that leaves the Ottawa substation to the west along an industrial corridor and then north across largely open farm fields to join the already approved LaSalle Wedron transmission corridor. One variation on this route avoids every home by more than 200 feet. In contrast, previously proposed Ameren routes came close to 80 to 155 homes. We still believe that this proposed route would have meet all the needs of AmerenIP, while having a minimal impact to the Fox River Valley, the local residents, and indeed, the entire community. This idea was first proposed by the Ottawa city engineer, David Noble, back in April of 2007. Ameren ignored evidence that this would be a suitable alternative to their high impact routes. We thought we had the unusual oppurtunity to enter this route concept into consideration. We thought, that with proper deliberation, the Illinois Commerce Commission would approve a route that is substantially similar to the “Smith ALT#2B Route”, which has shown to have a number of advantages over other routes under condsideration.
However, as of February 2, 2010, the Illinois Commerce Commission ruled that the only routes under consideration were the original Ameren primary route along IL 71, and the Revised-Stipulated route along the Fox River. I tried to improve on the Ameren routes, but I was denied by the Commission, due to concerns about the length of the required proceedings. If the “IL 71 Resistors” had worked with us, as we proposed, this might have been different. If the “IL 71 Resistors” had championed a better route, we may not even be here. The city of Ottawa dropped the ball on this third route, as well. I tried my best to support the best interest of the Ottawa/Dayton community, but the other parties have made that difficult, at best.
As of March 22, 2010, the judge accepted all of our evidence. As of April 12, 2010, we submitted all of our initial briefs, summarizing our positions to be read by the judge. As of April 26, 2010, we submitted all of our reply briefs, with responses to the other briefs. As of May 17, 2010, Judge Albers proposed a ruling that is in our favor and admonishes Ameren for their behavior in this matter.
The Illinois Commerce Commission decided our case at their June 23, 2010 bench meeting, in Springfield, IL. Judge Albers had requested expediency in this matter, and the commissioners unanimously approved Judge Albers’ proposed ruling. Since previous deliberations in this case had occured at their open meetings, we expected the decision to be made at their Open meeting on June 29, 2010, so none of us attended. Nonetheless, they saw the wisdom in our arguments and ruled heavily in our favor.
From the ruling:
Having reviewed the evidence of record, and upon consideration of all relevant route selection criteria as described by the parties, the Commission finds that the criteria described above favor the State Route 71 route over the Fox River route. Therefore, the Commission finds that the State Route 71 route is the least cost route when all costs and benefits are taken into account.