News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 24, 2014

Putting up lines

Residents turn out en masse to weigh in on potential routes for new power lines

TERRE HAUTE — Not in my front yard, my backyard or over my swimming pool – that sums up the feelings of many of the people at a Duke Energy-sponsored informational meeting in West Terre Haute Monday night.

The meeting was organized to draw feedback from residents about three proposed routes for at least 10 miles of new high-voltage power lines through western Vigo County.

More than 120 households were represented at the meeting, which lasted from 6 to 8:30 in the West Vigo Community Center. The meeting featured about a dozen Duke employees answering questions from farmers, teachers, business people and other residents living on the west side of the Wabash River and east of the Illinois state line.

Duke will erect the new lines to connect its Wabash River generating station north of Terre Haute to the Dresser substation, which is about five miles southwest of West Terre Haute, near the Vigo/Sullivan county lines.

“I live between two power lines already,” said Rex Certain, whose family has farmed an area south of Interstate 70 for nearly 100 years. One of the proposed routes – the one farthest to the west – would place a new power line near his farm, he said.

Charles Ray II, whose family lives along another of the three proposed routes echoed Certain. Three generations of Rays own homes long the eastern-most proposed route and do not want an 80-foot power line obstructing the views from their homes, he said. The lines would run right over pasture where cattle and other livestock graze, and the family raises corn and soybeans, he said.

“I don’t want that in my backyard,” said a woman who lives in the Lanterns West subdivision north of West Terre Haute. She didn’t want to give her name. There are already power lines in front of her home, she said. The proposed line would go right over her swimming pool, she said.

Barry Kent, whose western Vigo County home is in the path of one of the proposed routes, said he worries about the impact on his property and also his Ham Radio hobby, something he has done from his rural home for many years.

Duke officials were busy all evening taking written and oral comments from the scores of people at the meeting. That public feedback will be combined with environmental and engineering considerations to select the “preferred route,” Duke said in a document provided at the door.

The three proposed routes were indicated in different colors on about 20 large-sized aerial maps of western Vigo County on display at the meeting. Residents from the area stood in small groups in front of the maps talking among themselves about the proposed routes, which range in length from 10 to 13 miles.

“These are just lines on a map,” said Rick Burger, a Duke official at the meeting. It’s possible for the routes to be modified slightly by pushing the lines a little one way or the other, he said. It’s not uncommon for actual routes to include zigzags or other changes to avoid being too close to homes or other important structures or landmarks, he said.

The company will need to purchase easements from residents, whichever route is chosen. A company spokesman told the Tribune-Star last week Duke would use eminent domain authority only as a last resort.

One goal of Monday’s meeting was to learn from local people what lies along the proposed routes, said Lew Middleton, a Duke spokesman. Cultural, historical or other landmarks, such as family graveyards, are just the sorts of things the company hopes to learn about from such meetings, he said.

Duke is running the new power line from its Dresser substation to the Wabash River station to get more electric power to the Wabash station, which is seeing many of its power generating units shutting down due to environmental regulations. The company hopes to begin construction of the new lines in 2015 with completion planned for summer of 2016, the company document stated.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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