Ossian City Council approves first reading of SOO Green franchise agreement ordinance

This digital rendering of the Midwest shows the full run of the SOO Green Renewable Rail, from Mason City to the suburbs of Chicago. The SOO Green Renewable Rail can be seen running in green across the Midwest, with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market in blue, and the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (PJM, named after the first three states to utilize it) market in red. (submitted)

This digital rendering of the Midwest shows the full run of the SOO Green Renewable Rail, from Mason City to the suburbs of Chicago. The SOO Green Renewable Rail can be seen running in green across the Midwest, with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market in blue, and the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (PJM, named after the first three states to utilize it) market in red. (submitted)

The SOO Green project is moving full steam ahead, thanks in part to a recent public hearing in Ossian.

The project, which consists of the construction of a first-of its-kind high-voltage direct-current interregional underground transmission line, will run from Mason City to Chicago and is slated to travel alongside existing railroad lines — traveling through northeast Iowa.

“The SOO Green HVDC Link is a first-of-its-kind electricity transmission project that will install state-of-the-art high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cable underground along existing railroad corridors,” says information at soogreen.com. “SOO Green is pioneering an innovative model for developing transmission infrastructure to deliver renewable energy long distances to customers across the eastern U.S. that virtually eliminates the visual, land and environmental impact of above-ground transmission lines. SOO Green will enable the development of new, low-cost renewable energy resources while enhancing the power grid’s reliability and resilience.”

Prior to Ossian’s public hearing on the project, Winneshiek Energy District Director Andy Johnson said that although the energy district isn’t directly involved with SOO Green, he’s very excited about it — as all northeast Iowans should be.

“A major rebuild and expansion of transmission is necessary for the nation’s power grid to evolve and meet needs this century,” Johnson said. “This is often discussed in the context of the need to move energy from new wind and solar farms to population centers, and that’s important, but transmission improvements are also necessary thanks to changes to electricity consumption, like the growth of electric vehicles and heat pumps in buildings.”

Johnson said that not only will the project be a major improvement, but it will also have economic benefits for the region.

“Bottom line, this transmission project is a major improvement to the reliability of Iowa’s grid, and can move a massive amount of energy with no overhead wires and no eminent domain in the county,” Johnson said. “Local residents get a stronger grid while eastern power consumers will largely be footing the bill.”

Prior to Ossian’s public hearing, Johnson corresponded with Kenzie Geiger of the LS2 Group, which provides public relations services for the SOO Green project. Geiger said, “SOO Green will generate real property tax revenue for the jurisdictions it crosses.”

Projected tax revenues in Winneshiek County and Ossian over the first 25 years of the franchise are:

• Winneshiek County (all taxing districts): more than $4.9 Million 

• Winneshiek County Government: more than $1.8 Million 

• South Winneshiek School District: more than $1.2 Million

• Area Community College: more than $208K

• City of Ossian: more than $103K

During the public hearing, held during the Feb. 5 Ossian City Council meeting, eight local residents attended the meeting and numerous questions were asked of SOO Green representatives present, and they answered all of them.

“This project is something that we’ve been talking [about] with SOO Green about for several years now — since before COVID, and we have held several public comment meetings prior to this,” said Ossian City Clerk Ashley Goltz. “We also had several city council meetings where SOO Green representatives talked to the council about the project and the franchise agreement and what it means for not only the city but residents as well.”

Goltz said the recent meeting was held so that the council could pass the franchise agreement with SOO Green. According to the meeting’s minutes, following the public hearing, the Ossian City Council unanimously passed the first reading of Ordinance 98, an ordinance entering into a franchise agreement with SOO Green. 

The second reading of the SOO Green ordinance will happen at the next meeting of the Ossian City Council at 5 p.m., March 4, at Ossian City Hall.

For more information, visit soogreen.com.

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