Franchise Process Facts
Any electric transmission line above a certain voltage size (69,000 volts, also referred to as 69 kilovolts or 69 kV) that is located outside of a city must have a franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board before it can be built. The process the Board uses to consider whether to issue a franchise for a proposed line can be described as follows:
If the proposed line will cross one mile or more of privately-owned land, then the first step in the process is an informational meeting in each affected county. At these meetings the project, the franchise process, and the legal rights of landowners will be explained.
Petition for franchise
Not less than 30 days after the informational meeting, the company may file with the Board a petition for a franchise for the proposed line. Once the petition is filed and if it is substantially complete, thenthere are two possible paths for the proceeding'.
If no objections are on file and the petition does not ask for the power of eminent domain, then a notice is published two times in a newspaper of general circulation in the affected county. If no objections are filed within 20 days of the second publication, the franchise may be granted without a hearing.
If objections are on file or eminent domain authority is requested, a hearing must be held.Notice of the hearing will be mailed to objectors and owners of affected property. Notice will also be published.
When a proposed line is greater than one mile long, the hearing must be held in the county seat of the county that is located at the midpoint of the proposed line. (If the line is shorter than one mile, the hearing can be held at the Board’s offices in Des Moines.)
a. The Board or an administrative law judge will preside at the hearing.
b. At the hearing, all parties may present evidence and testimony in support of or opposition to the electric line.
c. Ultimately, the Board will decide whether the proposed line is necessary to serve a public use,represents a reasonable relationship to an overall plan of transmitting electricity in the public interest, complies with routing and engineering standards, and meets all other legal requirements.
Right of Way Concerns
In order to construct a transmission line on private property, the company must obtain necessary rights from the owner of the land, typically by means of an easement. An easement may be voluntary or, in some cases, it may be obtained through condemnation (also known as the power of eminent domain).
If the company cannot obtain voluntary easements for the entire line, it may ask the Board for the authority to take those rights through condemnation. Under federal and state law, private property cannot be taken for public use without 1) a demonstrated public purpose and (2) just compensation to the owner. Click to read "Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Doamin" on the IUB website.
Under Iowa law, the Utilities Board will determine whether a company has shown a need to serve a public use, but the Utilities Board will not determine the question of just compensation. If condemnation is necessary, then the question of compensation will be determined in an entirely separate proceeding by a Compensation Commission appointed for each county under Iowa Code chapter 6B.