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Avoiding Eminent Domain: IA Landowners and Energy Transmission

PHOTO: With an increasing number of Iowans impacted by energy transmission projects, new research points to key strategies for landowners in cases that may involve eminent domain. Photo credit: Western Area Power/Flickr.
PHOTO: With an increasing number of Iowans impacted by energy transmission projects, new research points to key strategies for landowners in cases that may involve eminent domain. Photo credit: Western Area Power/Flickr.
May 13, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - With the changing landscape of energy transmission in Iowa often comes the contentious use of eminent domain, but new research says the shortcomings can and must be addressed because a growing number of the population is being impacted.

Johnathan Hladik, a senior policy advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs who authored the report, "Giving Landowners the Power," found that there are two key strategies to remedy problems related to the siting of new transmission projects and the use of eminent domain.

"The first is to promote greater public involvement in the planning and development process," Hladik said, "and the second is to create a way for landowners to better share information with each other and with the developers."

One way to improve that dialogue, Hladik said, is with the creation of small districts along the transmission corridor. He said that would give each landowner in each segment more of a say in whether he or she will be part of the route and, if so, with what restrictions and requirements.

Hladik said returning more power to landowners in the development of electricity transmission also should lead to greater compensation, which is now based on what's deemed the fair market value.

"That doesn't consider personal preferences or family history or community bonds or whether land is suitable for a particular use that you may know of. That may not be valued in that calculation."

Hladik noted that developers also reap the benefits when avoiding battles over eminent domain and avoiding the associated legal and administrative costs, which he said ultimately are passed on as higher prices for consumers.

The report is online at cfra.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA