On August 20, 2013, the Illinois Commerce Commission (the "Commission") granted Ameren Transmission Line Company ("ATXI") a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity ("Certificate") for the Illinois Rivers Project. This means that the Commission has approved ATXI's request to construct a 345kV transmission line pursuant to the route specified in the Commission's Final Order. http://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/files.aspx?no=12-0598&docId=201974 .
The next step is for ATXI to attempt to negotiate transmission line easements with landowners along the route. ATXI has hired an independent contractor to make contact with landowners on ATXI's behalf to acquire a transmission line easement. The Commission has not granted ATXI the right to proceed with eminent domain and you do not have to enter an easement agreement at this time.
Once a legal easement has been established, ATXI will move forward with construction. Construction involves the clearing of trees and other obstructions from the 150' wide easement, erecting towers that are at least 60' to 100' tall, and using cranes and whatever other special equipment is necessary to complete and maintain the project.
A number of issues should be addressed prior to signing any type of agreement. The transmission line easement, like any easement agreement, is a legally binding agreement that needs to be carefully reviewed and understood before executing it. This type of agreement will have a long-term effect on you, your land and future generations. It is important that you not agree to, or sign, any agreement until you have had an opportunity to discuss it with an attorney.
For those unfortunate landowners who have property on the route the Commission approved, the next step for you is to consider the terms you want included in your easement and the fair compensation that you will demand from ATXI.
A number of factors are considered in assessing fair compensation, which include:
- The market value of the land over which the easement is taken;
- Reduced property value due to restricted use of the land within the easement and possible visual impact on the residential component of the property;
- The number of transmission line structures which could be located on the easement;
- The effect the line might have on farm management practices; and
- Any loss of commercial or potentially commercial timber and hunting leases.
There are also a number of factors that must be assessed in negotiating the easement, which including:
- General purpose of the transmission line easement;
- Allow surveying and testing to be done at the appropriate time for the purpose of determining the feasibility of building a transmission line (structure) on your property;
- Allow construction, operation and maintenance of transmission line at the appropriate time;
- Scope of agreement - amount of property covered;
- Determining how much of land will be tied up;
- Determining the land rights being given up; and
- What restrictions may be placed on the land - farming, hunting?
Before signing an easement, landowners should consult a lawyer to be sure, or at least aware, of any problems that the transmission line may cause to their farming operations. An easement is usually filed with the county Recorder of Deeds. However, sometimes an easement may not be recorded, but a Memorandum that memorializes the terms so the existence of the easement will be filed in an abstract format. This prevents the financial terms from being disclosed. If have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office to arrange a consultation.