January 23, 2014

Power line project solicits public input

Residents share agricultural, environmental, other concerns.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Those planning for about 70 miles of new transmission lines in the area and those who will be affected by them have started to assist each other through the exchange of information.

The project is a joint effort between the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, or NIPSCO, and Pioneer Transmission — a joint venture of Duke Energy and American Electric Power. It will ultimately replace old electric transmission lines with a more modernized system and connect Duke Energy’s Greentown substation east of Kokomo to NIPSCO’s substation in Reynolds.

The exact route of the new line is yet to be determined, but the project team is looking at an area that includes Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Howard, Miami and White counties.

Open houses took place in Kokomo Tuesday and at Ivy Tech Community College in Logansport Wednesday, where members of the project team were available to answer questions and address concerns from the public.

Kathleen Szot, external communications manager for NIPSCO, said open houses allow the project team to get information that isn’t always available through public records.

Attendees often provide the locations of irrigation systems, airstrips and burial plots, Szot said. Environmental conservation concerns like the locations of bald eagles’ nests, streams, and wetlands are also shared. Attendees were invited to point out these sites on a computer mapping system, allowing members of the project team to take note of areas to avoid as a route is developed in the future.

“We’re going to be using all of that information we gather here,” Szot said at the open house Wednesday, adding that the goal is for the line to have “the least amount of impact as possible.”

The $328 million project will require 135-foot-tall steel structures with an average of 1,250 feet between them. A 200-foot right of way will be required, which the project team plans to acquire through the purchase of easements — the right to use land for building and maintaining the transmission line. An agent will be assigned to each of the individual landowners who will be affected, providing a point of contact for them.

Because this line will be going through rural areas, Szot said most of the concerns the team has been receiving so far have been related to agriculture.

“In many cases, land can be used after construction is complete,” Szot said.

Several farmers, although declining to give their names to the press, said they were concerned the structures would be difficult to farm around after they go up.

Twenty-one people had visited the open house in Logansport by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

One of them was Chuck Layman, who owns a farm near Deacon. While he’s fairly certain his farm is outside the area the project will be addressing, he said he wanted to swing by anyway and learn more about it all.

“We’re just interested, trying to see what’s going on,” Layman said.

Another open house will be from 3:30 to 7 p.m. today at the Canal Center, 1030 N. Washington St., Delphi.

Open houses will take place again in May, when Szot said there should be a clearer idea of potential routes. In July, the team plans to finalize the route and begin soliciting property right of entry permission. Then in late summer, right of entry surveys and permitting activities will begin, followed by starting right of way acquisition in November. Construction should start in early 2016 and is expected to finish in early 2018.

Those who are unable to attend any of the January open houses are invited to call the project hotline at 1-888-449-2101 or email with questions and concerns.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK

If you go: WHAT: Open house for public input on NIPSCO's power line project WHEN: 3:30 to 7 p.m. today WHERE: The Wabash and Erie Canal Center, 1030 N. Washington St., Delphi INFO: Those who are unable to attend an open house may call the project hotline at 1-888-449-2101 or email with questions and concerns