News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 14, 2014

Utility seeks land for new power lines

Incorrect mailings confuse landowners about meeting dates

TERRE HAUTE — Duke Energy is planning to install a new high-voltage power transmission line that would travel between 10 to 13 miles north to south along the Wabash River, in anticipation of the 2015 closure of its Wabash River Generation Station.

The company began informing 700 landowners of the project this week; however, the information contained a clerical error for a public hearing.

That upset Marica “Skitz” Evrard, who lives in the 4,000 block of West Sandford Road in Vigo County.

Evrard received a letter on March 13 from Duke Energy, dated March 12. The letter informed of a planned public meeting for March 10 — three days after she got the letter.

Evrard is concerned the power line project could impact an 80-acre site along Reagan Road, which has been in her family since 1843. Evrard already has natural gas lines and power lines going through other property. She said she thinks utility companies often overstep their right-of-way, going onto her property without permisison to trim trees. Field drainage tiles have also been damaged, she said.

“Easements are just horrible, utilties do not care about the landowner,” Evrard said, adding that utilities can “dangle the threat of eminent domain” to obtain a right-of-way.

Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton said a clerical error was made in the letter that informed landowners of a public meeting. Corrected letters were to be received by landowners on Friday or today. The new public meeting date is March 24 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Terre Haute Community Center, 124 W. Johnson Ave.

The number and exact locations for easements needed for a new power line will not be known until a final route is selected, Middleton said. The easement corridor will be 100 feet wide, with some parts that may be wider, Middleton said.

“We have worked with an engineering firm to look at a whole host of factors — environmental and cultural, and where neighborhoods are and where churches are … to finally pare down and eliminate routes” to three proposed routes, Middleton said.

“We will make every effort to work with landowners to obtain easements. We have land agents that are very experienced at this,” Middleton said. “As a public utility, Duke Energy does have eminate domain authority, but we would us that authority only as a last resort.”

Duke Energy is informing landowners within 1,000 feet of three proposed routes for a 138-kilowatt power line extending from the company’s Wabash River station south to the Dresser substation. The proposed routes vary from 10 to 13 miles in length.

The new power line, to be supported by a combination of steel and wood poles, “is needed to provide access to other power sources for our customers in westcentral Indiana,” Middleton said. “This is connected to the eventual retirement of the Wabash River Station coal burning units No. 2, 3, 4 and 5.”

Duke Energy hopes to start construction in the second or third quarter of 2015, with the new line in service before the summer of 2016. Duke Energy expects to retire its coal-fired units at the Wabash River station by April 2015, Middleton said.

The company is still evaluating whether or not to convert unit No. 6 at the Wabash Station into a natural-gas fired power unit, Middleton said.

The new power line would improve “the reliability of electric service because it creates another new major route for power delivery. You have to do maintenance on transmission lines from time to time, so if you have alternate switching of power that you can do, … you can work on the de-energized transmission line and switch back. It gives us more flexibility, which translates into more reliability,” Middleton said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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