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Rural residents voice concerns

Tom Jackson • May 24, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Running a power line through the middle of a farm field can really disrupt a farm’s operation.

It’s much better to run the line along a road or along a property line.

That’s a message representatives of the Ohio Power Siting Board heard, over and over again, during a public hearing Wednesday evening before a crowd of about 100 at Fremont Middle School. It was called to discuss a planned power line that will run from Fremont to Sandusky. Everyone who wanted to was allowed to give testimony.

The Hayes-West Fremont 138 kilovolt transmission line is being built by FirstEnergy, but the route the line will take must be approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board, an agency based in Columbus.

As required by the board’s rules, the FirstEnergy affiliate building the line has submitted two proposed routes, which will connect the new Hayes Substation at Ohio 4 and Fox Road in Perkins Township to the existing West Fremont Substation in northwest Fremont.

The preferred route would run 28.95 miles and includes an option that would avoid Wildlife Production Area 30, while an alternate route would run 30.47 miles.

FirstEnergy originally proposed running the line through Peninsular farms, a historic 480-acre spread just north of Fremont that has both environmental and historical interest. It was the site of a very early settlement, and it has two active eagle nests.

The preferred route does not cross Peninsular Farms, but the alternate route does.

Mike Powell, representing the Black Swamp Conservancy, urged the Ohio Power Siting Board to adopt the preferred route and spare Peninsular Farms, which he said is a nationally-recognized stopover for migrating birds. He said power lines would violate the conservation easements Peninsular Farms owner Don Miller has granted to Black Swamp Conservancy.

Miller also spoke and observed nobody wants a power line on their property.

“Everybody here is a NIMBY, not in my back yard” he said.

Miller said he would like to see the Power Siting Board do all it can to avoid having the line run through open farmland.

Many other speakers had similar opinions.

Alan Weickert, of Fremont, like many speakers, said it makes farming more difficult when power lines run across a farm field.

“I would like to see them move those poles over by the property line,” said Weickert, who also worried about damage to his tiles.

Jeanette Henry, of Milan, told the crowd the poles are scheduled to run through the full length of her farm.

“The usual damage lasts forever,” she said. “Farming around the poles is very difficult”

Other speakers expressed worry about possible health hazards, said they wanted to be fairly compensated or said they didn’t feel they’d been adequately notified that a power line was planned.

Greta See, an administrative law judge for the Ohio Power Siting Board, explained that the next step in the process is an adjudicatory hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. June 2 at her agency’s offices in Columbus, where expert testimony will be taken.

The matter will then go on the board’s agenda for a final decision. The earliest possible date is the August board meeting, she said.

Matt Butler, a spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said in most cases, utilities do their best to make sure they follow the property line.

He said farmers concerned about power lines crossing their fields should talk to FirstEnergy as soon as possible.

“They’re going to need to talk to the company” he said.

Want to weigh in?

If you missed Wednesday’s public meeting, you can still comment on the proposed power line routes.

Write to the Ohio Power Siting Board at 180 E. Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215; email the board at contact OPSB@puc.state.oh.us  ; or fill out an online form at OPSB.ohio.gov. Please include case number: 12-1636-EL-BTX. A map of the proposed routes is available at the board’s website, opsb.ohio. gov. Look at the list of “Pending Cases” under the “Siting Cases” tab at the top of the page.

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