Monday, November 26, 2007


Utah is a beautiful state. I wouldn't want to live there myself, but it is a pretty place to pass through as I once did on the bus.

However, its citizens are no more protected against the intrusion of government than anyone else in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

But it isn't the hated feds, the bogeyman of everything Western, its the famous local government that is treating it's citizens like surfs in the small community of Eagle Mountain.

Eagle Mountain is located north and west of Provo and bills itself as "Utah's New Frontier."

Well, some of the new frontier's residents are not thrilled with the news that a huge, high tension power line pole is going to built right in their front yard...literally. Neighbors who don't get the pole do get the joy of living under the electric lines...always a bit of a shocking experience.

And if they don't like it, they can lump it. That's what their government told them.

Oh sure, the city has offered financial compensation which the local residents point out is ridiculously low...and anyway they just don't want the power lines period.

Did I mention that the city has assured the land owners that they will have full access to the land under the which they, the residents, bought and paid for? Oh, but they can't plant any trees there or build anything. But, hey, they can lie on their backs and look up at the lines to their hearts content.

One Eagle Mountain resident summed up the feelings of many with a letter to the local paper:

"Welcome to have no right to your land...the government can take what it wants. The ruling on imminent domain was sustained in the Bush supreme court."

I remember when it was just us 60s radicals who called it "Amerika." Who would have thought average citizens in Utah would find the epitaph appealing?

Just in case you think I'm being biased in favor of the feds. Far from it. I don't trust anyone much with power...state, local, federal, democrats, republicans, power companies, or Ron Paul.

Hell, back east in Virginia folks are concerned transmission lines up to 150 feet tall could scar the Shenandoah Valley’s famous view of rolling farmland and mountains.

The federal government, they say, is taking away Virginia’s right to decide where and how electric transmission lines are built in Rockingham, Page and Shenandoah counties.

At issue, they say, is a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy that includes the Valley as part of a “transmission corridor.” The decision would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to approve utility companies’ request to build transmission lines, even if the state denies their applications.

“It’s a significant expansion of federal power and an infringement on our prerogatives as a state,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

Of course, Virginia legislatures will crow about their efforts to protect homeowners from the Supreme's intrusion on their rights during last year's assembly.

Tell it to the judge, as they say...or at least the people of Northern Virginia.

Dominion Virginia Power this year decided to build its new high-voltage transmission line along the path of existing electric cables in Northern Virginia's outer suburbs bypassing pristine land where opposition to the company's plans has been fiercest.

Sounds nice?

Piedmont Environmental Council spokesman Robert W. Lazaro Jr. says not so fast. Running the new line along an existing right of way does not protect nearby homeowners from transmission lines that he expects to be significantly taller than existing ones.

He also wondered whether the existing path was wide enough to accommodate the new line or additional private property would have to be acquired.

"The fact is the state has a failed energy policy," Lazaro said. "Dominion is a huge player in the politics of this state and is able to run roughshod over consumers and responsible legislators."

Environmentalists and residents near the proposed path of the line have waged a multimillion-dollar campaign against the company and persuaded lawmakers to introduce legislation to block the line from their property.

However, the Washington Post reports Dominion's lobbyists have beaten back those Virginia...where legislation has passed to protect residents from such. Huh?

It's simple. Homeowners' rights mean little when determined corporate interests with lots of cash on hand target the land under their homes for private development.

Oh by the way, the effort has already begun to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to repeal the protections against eminent domain abuse that was enacted during the 2007 session. Redevelopment and housing authorities, the utility lobby, the real estate lobby and other corporate interests are placing immense pressure (or should we say passing around lots of bucks) on elected officials in Richmond to make eminent domain abuse easier.

It's interesting to note that the very people most vocal with their warnings about those treacherous commies who say "private property is theft" are, in fact, those most active in the stealing of private property.

The following is from the Daily Herald (Provo, Utah).

Eagle Mtn. residents protest power line plan
Caleb Warnock - DAILY HERALD

Shivering as she stands in a sub-freezing breeze in her front yard, thick tears fall down Karen O'Donnell's face as she talks of Eagle Mountain's plan to put a high-voltage power pole in her front yard.

"It's killing us," she said, weeping uncontrollably. "We are prisoners. This does not feel like America."

Karen and her husband, Kim, purchased their 5.5-acre home on rural Lake Mountain Road four years ago. They run an animal rescue sanctuary and had to delay an interview with the Daily Herald on Friday to make an emergency trip to Riverton to rescue two emus. Raising them for meat, the owner lost interest and stopped feeding the birds, one of which was suffering a bleeding eye infection. Having already cut one emu up to feed to the family dog, the others were headed for the same fate.

Over the years the couple have taken in more than 100 horses, chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs and other unwanted animals. The couple were expanding with a large pond in the front yard, and they had the necessary fence partially up when they discovered the city was taking a 75-foot easement across their front yard and placing a 60 to 90-foot power pole near their front window.

"Everything we have worked for is destroyed," Kim O'Donnell said, noting the couple were planning to cash in the equity in their property at some point and trade up for more land and a larger rescue operation in a more rural area.

The couple say they will be too afraid to use a metal water spigot that stands about a dozen feet from where the couple says city documents show the power pole will be placed. And they will not put their animals under the power lines because of health concerns.

Though discussion about the power line has been going on since spring, it was not until last week that the city gave the O'Donnells and three of their neighbors maps showing where the power poles would be placed and where the easement across their front lawns would run.

The city has offered the O'Donnells $16,000 as compensation, an amount they call ridiculously low.

"The city would prefer to discuss this matter with you directly and avoid filing a condemnation action," wrote the city attorney in the letter. "However, the city must begin construction on this project immediately in order to complete the project by summer 2008. Therefore, if you fail to respond to this letter, or if the city has not been able to reach an agreement to purchase the easement from you before Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, the city will be forced to file a condemnation action and obtain an order of immediate occupation for the easement required for the project."

Giving only two weeks to consider the offer and their options is not fair, the couple said.

"It will destroy the value of our home," said Kim O'Donnell. "Who would consider buying this home with a 90-foot power pole in the front yard? I know I wouldn't. I'd drive right by. No one is ever going to buy this home."

Greg Jeppson has been offered $6,380 for the easement across the front of his home. Like all the homeowners interviewed for this story, Jeppson said the city must either leave the residents alone, or pay them enough to compensate for the loss of value to their homes.

Jeppson said he was stunned by the city's offer. His all-brick home, built four years ago on a 5.5 acre lot, is worth almost $600,000, he said. The city would need pay at least $85,000 to cover the damage the power pole would do to the value.

"Despite the property owners' concerns, the city has determined that the preferred alignment is still the best alternative," said the city attorney in a letter to affected homeowners.

The O'Donnells, Jeppsons and others spoke out against the city's plan at a recent council meeting.

Reached by cell phone on Friday, Councilwoman and Mayor-elect Heather Jackson said that though Kinghorn's letter may demand agreement by Dec. 7, the city is still considering its alternatives and could still choose another route for the power line.

The power line had to be moved to the front yard of the O'Donnells and other neighbors because it would have been too costly to purchase the two homes across the street, Jackson said. The proposed path of the power line follows an existing high-voltage line behind the homes of two neighbors across the street, but veers to pass through the front yards of the O'Donnells and others because the two homes are in the way.

"We have to be very careful how we spend taxpayer money," Jackson said.

All residents interviewed said the only fair thing to do is buy the homes across the street, one of which is for sale, and keep the power line in its intended path.

Michelle Clark moved into the home across the street from the O'Donnells last January. She said the high-voltage line in their backyard often shocks them, especially if they touch something metal. She said she only found out about the planned power line a few days ago from the O'Donnells and that no one from the city has contacted her even though the pole would be feet from her home and would sandwich her home between two high-voltage lines.

"I would not want to live here if that is case," she said. She said she has no idea how to protest the city's proposal.

Jackson said she did not know whether any one from the city had attempted to contact the Clarks or the owners of the second home next door.

James and Marcie Taylor, neighbors of the O'Donnells and Jeppsons, said the city has offered them $910 for an easement across their land. All the families will meet with city officials and a state mediator on Thursday. The Jeppsons and Taylors are seeking independent appraisals.

The city has told them the 138kV power line cannot be buried because it would be hazardous, the Taylors said. They are angry that the city is refusing to purchase the homes across the street and keep the power line over there, they said. They have also asked the city to put the line a distance behind their home on Bureau of Land Management property, but city documents say the residents prefer the power lines in their front yards.

Residents and their neighbors say the city is trying to rush the project through during the holidays.

"It's too close to our homes," James Taylor said. "There is no reimbursement for the depreciation of our property values, and there is no consideration for our health or safety."

All homeowners interviewed said they are concerned with research and anecdotal evidence linking exposure to high-voltage power lines to cancer and other health problems.

The Taylors said they believe the city's mind is made up and the city's letter proves officials will ride rough-shod over their concerns in order to get the power line built so that thousands of new homes can be built in the southern end of the city.

Adam Ferre, public works coordinator for the city, said residents will have "100 percent access" to the ground below the power line, though they would not be allowed to build any structure or plant large trees. He said the lines are expected to be approximately 75 feet above the ground.

Finding a new home for the power lines may be impossible because the city is on a deadline and "the environmental study for the entire corridor done by a third party took about six months or so and cost a lot of money," said Ferre.

• North County writer Donna Milakovic contributed to this story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someone should remind those folks about the bolt weevils of the 70's: