Elsea Gives Update On Line Proposal

By MARK EVANS

mevans@stegenherald.com

Steve Elsea, manager of member services for Citizens Electric Corporation (CEC),  updated Ste. Genevieve County commissioners on the planned  69,000-volt transmission line that would run 19 miles, through the northern and western part of the county at last Thursday’s commission meeting.

The line and supporting towers will be put up by Wabash Valley Power Alliance, the wholesale electricity provider that supplies CEC.

The proposed project had ignited some opposition last year, when Wabash Valley hired ORC Associates from St. Charles to try to get landowners along the projected path of the project to sign easements. The  firm was accused of using “strong-arm” tactics and making implied threats to get paperwork signed.

Elsea said that Wabash is no longer using ORC. They have contracted with Emerald Energy to contact landowners.

“ORC did not handle that well,” he said. “Consequently, they are no longer our land agents.”

Elsea thinks Emerald will be a much better fit.

“Emerald is looking into also opening up an office in Bloomsdale, so folks can just walk in and talk to a human instead of on the phone or by email.

“Emerald has had a lot of experience with cooperatives in Missouri. So, I think they understand how rural America works and ORC didn’t.”

Based on input received from area residence, Wabash and CEC decided to step back and reexamine the path that the line takes. This should push the project back about a year.

“Originally, a new line would be in by early 2024,” he said. “Now it’s early 2025.”

A field survey will come first.

“The terrain around here can sometimes be challenging,” Elsea said. “There can be sink holes, or also other environmental  sensitivities, whether it’s habitat or whatever. Unlike 60 or 70 years ago when a line was built, who was concerned about the migratory patterns of Indiana bats? We have to be now; that’s the law. You have to figure in all kinds of sensitivities, like heritage farms.”

This may lead to further rerouting. Nelson noted that the county is well aware of the problems bats and other species can present to construction projects.

He also stressed that they are not trying to buy any land, just to obtain an easement giving them the right to build and maintain the towers and lines.

“And they will be compensated for it,” Elsea stressed.

“That’s where we’re hoping Emerald does a really good job – and we think they will – of reaching out to the land owners. Based on the experience we’ve seen, they’re going to do a much better job of it.”

The line, as now proposed, would connect the Valley View, Kinsey, Sprott and Salem substations.

Elsea feels that with growth in that part of the county “there are going to be some voltage issues down the road” unless improvements are made.

“With the high-voltage line connecting Valley View and Salem, but also connecting Kinsey and Sprott, what it will do is Sprott will take a load off of Rocky Ridge; Kinsey will take a load off of Valley View and basically support those areas,” he said.

It will strengthen the local electric gird and will provide alternate routes for electricity to be supplied, in case of an outage.

Elsea used an analogy of too many things being plugged into an outdated outlet in and old house. The new line, connecting the existing substations, will give a safer, more dependable source of energy, like rewiring a house.

Wabash and CEC teamed up in 2018. Elsea said Wabash does “a really good job from a monitoring standpoint,” whereas CEC has more experience in the construction of lines and towers, Elsea said.

The towers would probably be 65 to 80 feet high, with six to 10 towers per mile.

A virtual forum is being held his Wednesday for public officials – not for local landowners, as previously reported. This will allow them to address questions or concerns brought to them by the public.

Virtual/call-in meetings for potentially affected residents are scheduled to begin in mid-March.