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Article updated: 12/12/2013 5:58 AM

County could push ComEd to bury Grand Prairie Parkway lines

Resolution to note safety, health, economic impact

By James Fuller

Kane County officials signaled Wednesday they don't oppose ComEd's Grand Prairie Parkway plan, but they do oppose how and where the $200 million worth of new power lines will stand.

The project would extend a 345,000-volt power line between a substation near Byron and a substation near Wayne. The line would travel about 57 miles across Ogle, DeKalb, Kane and DuPage counties. About 400 steel towers are needed to suspend the line depending on which route is approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Each tower needs about 200 feet of space. The new lines are designed to improve service quality.

ComEd submitted both a primary and alternate route for the power line to the state Dec. 2. Those routes involve taking the line either through the middle of the Kane County Forest Preserve District's Burlington Prairie and Muirhead Springs locations or through neighboring farms. A handful of farmers last month asked forest preserve district commissioners to let the line run through the preserves, rather than their properties. On Wednesday, a group of residents living in an Elgin senior living community also asked the county board's development committee to help try and block the lines from being erected near their homes. The residents estimated a combined loss of $25 million in property values for all the residents who would live near the new lines.

In response, board members asked ComEd Spokesman Sylvia Rogowski if there was any chance of relocating the route for the lines or at least burying them underground. Rogowski said the current route is the result of public comment already received by more than 2,000 people taken during several public presentations of the plan. She said burying the cables has not been part of the discussion until now. In part, that's because ComEd is charged with finding the most cost-effective location in order to keep corresponding electricity rates low.

"We have not looked at underground," Rogowski said. "I know it has been coming up lately. That issue is something that the ICC would undertake. The cost (of burying) is significant. It is doable, but it is significantly more costly."

Hearing that, Kane County Board member Barb Wojnicki called on county staff members to draft a resolution opposing ComEd's current plan for the Grand Prairie Parkway.

"Kane County opposes the Grand Prairie Parkway for reasons of a negative impact to property values and, even more importantly, a negative impact to the health, safety and welfare of residents," Wojnicki said in dictating the general wording of the resolution. "The towers going in would change the landscape of the northwest section of Kane County forever."

Wojnicki said any power lines that would impact local property owners should be buried underground. And, if the forest preserve district decides to allow power lines to run through its open space, the cost savings involved should be allocated to help fund the moving of the lines underground.

The committee supported Wojnicki's resolution, but it will come back with final wording for an actual vote. The full county board would have to vote in support of the resolution before it would be sent to the ICC for the official record. The agency might rule on the pathway for the power lines as soon as May 2014.

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