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Missouri residents concerned with eminent domain use in Grain Belt Express construction

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CENTER, Mo. (WGEM) -- Multiple northeast Missouri landowners are concerned about the possibility of the power of eminent domain being used to obtain easements for the Grain Belt Express.

The Grain Belt Express project is a multi-state, renewable energy power line and construction plans online show it passing through farmland near Center, Missouri.

Local landowners and leaders said if it's going to happen, they should have to negotiate directly with landowners instead of using eminent domain and paying them a set price for easements.

Ralls County farmer Scott Hodges said what they're offering for easements on several miles of land he farms just isn't worth it.

"For what they're offering and to have to try to farm around all these poles and given the easement of lifetime easement to property that we've spent our life on," Hodges said.

He said he's concerned the towers would be taller than other power poles in the area and could effect his GPS systems on his combine.

"Another issue is aerial application, planes got to fly around them," Hodges said. "If you put a line across the middle of [a field] that eliminates any chance of ever having center pivot irrigation."

Western District Commissioner John Lake said Hodges isn't alone in his worries.

"Biggest problem is it's the taking of the farmers property by eminent domain for private gain and twe do not want to have that at all," he said.

Local lawmakers said they're turning those concerns into action.

40th District Republican representative Chad Perkins said he's once again co-sponsoring a bill to modify eminent domain privileges to prevent the company from using it for the project.

"We passed overwhelmingly bipartisan support," Perkins said. "And, you know, [we] expect to have some success in the Senate this year, get on to the governor's desk and get it signed this fall."

Grain Belt Express officials said on its website while they're a regulated public utility which gives them the right of eminent domain, they're "committed to reaching voluntarily negotiated agreements."

But Hodges said he feels like there's another way to build the power line if they really want it.

"Instead of just coming in here and saying what they're going to do, maybe come in and said here's what we'd like to do," he said.

While work has not begun on the line, the company behind the Grain Belt Express said it's offering $35 million in land owner payments to make the project happen.

Invenergy Transmission said the project will transport up to 4,000 megawatts of energy from Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, save Missouri utilities nearly $13 million, and create 1,500 jobs during the three-year construction period.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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