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ComEd open house draws concerned public

SOUTH ELGIN – Bob Forster examined maps on a small round table, looking for where his St. Charles Township home would be in relation to where proposed high-voltage power lines would be.

“I would be very willing to guess that most people are here for NIMBY purposes,” said Forster, referring to the acronym for “not in my backyard.”

“So if you locate yourself on a map and find that the fancy lines are somewhere else, then you’re perfectly comfortable to leave and be happy and not fight the battle.”

Forster was among more than 100 people who packed the South Elgin Lions Club on Wednesday night to look at maps, talk with ComEd representatives and give feedback about the project, called the Grand Prairie Gateway.

ComEd proposes to build 60 miles of 345-kilovolt lines, from its substation near Wayne through Kane County to Ogle County, at a cost of about $200 million.

ComEd officials said the project is needed to make the regional power grid more efficient and to head off distribution problems it anticipates to worsen.

ComEd will host another open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, 1350 W. Prairie Drive, Sycamore, to collect feedback from the public and local government leaders regarding the route the power lines could take through the region.

ComEd spokesman David O’Dowd said the additional power grid is necessary because congestion makes the delivery system inefficient.

“Congestion drives up the cost of delivering power,” O’Dowd said. “This project is being designed to alleviate the congestion on the system, identified by PJM, which manages the electrical system here in Northern Illinois and 13 other states.”

The $200 million estimated project cost would be paid by rates, but cost savings would be substantial and “could very well offset any additional cost for the line itself.”

Timothy Burdis, client manager for PJM Interconnection, a regional electric transmission company, said congestion forces the use of more expensive power generation.

“The supply portion of your bill is where you’ll see congestion,” Burdis said. “Congestion is actually priced as a commodity, and it results in increased prices.”

Campton Hills Village President Patsy Smith said a part of the northern portion of the village is in the area ComEd is considering.

“It certainly seems logical to me in our area, to follow the railroad right of way,” Smith said. “There are very few homes along that route, and ComEd already owns quite a bit of right of way.”

Jim Klemenz of Plato Center said he hopes ComEd considers the health aspects of high power lines.

“I have heard about EMT, the electric fields generated off the high-power lines,” Klemenz said. “I’m concerned about public health.”

Klemenz said his secondary concern was home values and how they would be affected by the presence of high-voltage power lines, as were some neighbors from the Bowes Creek area of Elgin.

John Tomasiewicz of Elgin said he did not understand why ComEd did not put them on the other side of the nearby railroad tracks “where there’s only the road” instead of houses.

Virginia Rohleder, a neighbor of Tomasiewicz, said she is near tears over the impact high-power lines will have on property values.

“If they put these poles in, [home values] will go down the toilet,” Rohleder said. “Are you going to buy a house by a highpower line?”

ComEd will file a petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission before the end of the year.

If approved, the project would be completed and begin service by June 2017, officials said.

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