Tuesday, May 23, 2017 1:00 am
NIPSCO defends powerline against critics
PLYMOUTH – Northern Indiana farmers are complaining that a 100-mile powerline created by a for-profit utility company has interfered with their farms.
The South Bend Tribune reported that NIPSCO used eminent domain to buy land rights from hundreds of landowners for a 200-foot-wide easement for the $300 million “Reynolds to Topeka” line.
The utility has gotten easements for more than 500 properties along the route, and almost 140 of the cases were settled in court. There are still 17 easements that need to be settled in court.
Some farmers said the pipeline is being built too close to existing structures and will make it challenging to harvest crops. They're also worried about radiation from the line.
William Babchuk owns several hundred acres of farmland near his Starke County home. He wanted to build homes for his daughters on his land, but if the utility's plans continue, he won't be able to do so.
“They completely disregarded my building permits,” he said.
Babchuk said the utility could have used an existing powerline it owns for the project. The line runs roughly parallel to the path for the new one, and the existing towers only use a circuit on one side.
Utility spokesman Larry Graham said the old line wouldn't work because two circuits are planned for the new line. The existing line also has old conductors that wouldn't be compatible with the new ones planned for the new line.
The company has tried to meet the farmers' needs, but a project of this size will cause inconveniences, Graham said. In some cases the line, was designed to avoid irrigation systems, and farmers will be reimbursed for crop damage.
“We tried to be a good neighbor,” he said.
The powerline is intended to carry more power across the region, use more renewable energy and decrease electricity costs. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved the project and construction began last summer, with plans to finish by mid-2018.