Underground transmission line would slice through Ogle, Carroll counties

Company plans to use railroad right-of-way from Iowa to Chicago

A company is proposing to run an underground electric transmission line from Mason City, Iowa, to the Chicago area, a portion of which would would run through Carroll and Ogle counties.

Direct Connect Development Co. plans to run 349 miles of underground high voltage direct current line along the Canadian Pacific railroad route, on railroad-owned land, it said in a news release Monday.

If the final plans stick to that railroad map, the underground line would follow the Mississippi River along the Iowa side, then turn right in Savanna and stretch through Carroll County passing through Mount Carroll.

Once the line enters Ogle County, it would follow a path near Forreston and into Byron.

The project is estimated to cost about $2.5 billion and company officials hope to have it operational by 2024.

Ogle County Highway Department Engineer Jeremy Ciesiel met with a company representative some time ago, but had not received any update on the proposed underground lines, he said.

"A few months back, someone came and asked about options for routes and we provided him maps of the county and showed him some resources he could use," Ciesiel said. "But I haven't heard anything back since then."

The project, named the SOO Green Renewable Rail project, aims to take advantage of the model used to install fiber-optic cable.

By using the railroad route, the company can limit effects on neighboring landowners and any sensitive animal habitats.

The lines will carry electricity from wind turbines in Iowa to high-demand cities along the route. Direct Connect is building the high-voltage line to create a market segment that doesn't exist today.

It will serve as a renewable energy hub by connecting two large electric power markets and create a convenient location for for renewable energy buyers and sellers to enter into standard transactions, the release said.