ATXI optimistic about route reboot; Neighbors United, Walker still oppose

Thanks to a new partnership, the Mark Twain Transmission Project is once again making headlines. (KTVO File)

A project that's sparked much debate over the past few years could soon have new life.

Thanks to a new partnership, the Mark Twain Transmission Project is once again making headlines.

The initially proposed route, running from Palmyra to Kirksville and north to the Iowa border has been sidelined.

Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) and Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative announced plans on Monday to use rights of way from existing transmission lines.

The newly proposed line would use rights of way from Ameren Missouri's 161 kV transmission line that runs from the Iowa border to Kirksville.

It would also utilize Northeast Power's 161 kV line that runs from Kirksville to Palmyra.

Despite using those existing lines, approval would still be needed to connect lines to both new and existing substations in Kirksville and Palmyra.

The lines would also be upgraded for the 345 kV Mark Twain Line.

Maintenance costs would be split with Northeast Power, while much of the cost for new infrastructure would be funded through Ameren.

After this announcement, many in the community are asking the same question: Why wasn't the plan to use existing rights of way proposed the first time around, back in 2014, when this project initially started making waves?

According to Shawn Schukar, President and CEO of ATXI, the answer to that question is simple.

The line that was originally proposed offered the highest level of reliability.

However, due to strong opposition from affected landowners and commissioners of the five counties impacted, Ameren started looking at other options.

Schukar went on to say that although double-circuit lines, like the one in this new proposal can have issues, he believes it is the best option.

Issues with double-circuit lines include the possibility of having to take both lines out of service if maintenance is required.

A double-circuit also lessens the opportunity of expanding the line.

ATXI hopes to begin construction in 2018 and have the line officially in service by the following year.

The original Mark Twain route was first proposed in 2014.

Since that announcement, it has faced heavy opposition from both landowners and county officials.

Although Ameren is feeling optimistic with this new plan, it may be just as hard to get it up and running.

A win-win-win: That's how ATXI President Shwan Schukar describes the newly proposed line.

He says it will provide all of the energy and resources from the initially proposed line, increase tax revenue for impacted counties and address concerns of landowners and many others.

Schukar adds the new line would be higher from the ground, which would allow large farm equipment to still pass below without causing issues.

While Ameren is confident this new plan will win over public landowners, county officials and lawmakers are still wary.

Chief opposition group, Neighbors United, told KTVO they couldn't comment because of ongoing litigation.

However, a post on the group's Facebook page states they remain opposed to the project as they feel it's not necessary or in the best interest of the State of Missouri.

ATXI must also still receive permission from each county commission - something that has been holding up the project already.

Adair County Commissioner Mark Thompson also told KTVO he couldn't comment because of the court case, but said the attorney's representing the commission and Ameren are set to have a meeting on Tuesday.

During the press conference, announcing the new route, Ameren and Northeast Power thanked Senator Brian Munzlinger and State Representatives Craig Redmon, Lindell Shumake and Nate Walker for encouraging the compromise.

However, Walker was noticeably absent while his colleagues touted the new route.

He told KTVO "I am concerned with the recent developments taking place with the revised Mark Twain Transmission project involving their new partnership, which now includes Northeast Missouri Power Cooperative and Ameren Missouri. I will continue to listen to my constituents, farmers and landowners directly affected by this project. At present, my position has not changed. I do not endorse this project, and I believe that our area farmers and landowners in North Missouri need a strong voice from the Missouri General Assembly to represent them."

As this proposal moves forward, ATXI will host public open houses slated for mid-June.

There, they will answer questions and gather feedback from landowners.

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