Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Use for Rock Island RR Right of Way?

Updated within.

A vague plan to revive the old Rock Island Railroad right of way (perhaps) through Pocahontas County will be considered at several area public meetings this week. One will be held in Pocahontas on Friday.

The new use is for electric transmission lines to carry wind power out of the state. It is called the Rock Island Clean Line. It is one of several proposals being considered by various parties who want to profit from wind turbines.

Update: It became clear at the open house that poetic license has been used in naming the project after the Rock Island. The new power lines will not follow the old railroad lines. In fact towns will avoided as much as possible. As with the original Rock Island, the new lines run southeast from this area. Another similarity is that both the railroad and the electric lines serve a similar purpose--getting rural resources to urban markets. The railroads carried grain and livestock. The electric lines will carry wind power.

The Rock Island Railroad dissolved in bankruptcy in the early 1980s. One of its routes ran from Watertown, S.D, to Des Moines, passing through Laurens, Pocahontas, and Manson. In this area it was mostly converted to farmland. The Laurens hiking trail now occupies the old railroad route on the south side of town.

Another set of tracks ran through Estherville, Emmetsburg, Livermore,and Cedar Rapids.

Thursdays hearing will be at the Pocahontas Expo Center, 8am-10am. It is hosted by Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, Texas. This is a chance for us to learn their plans and for them to gauge our hospitality or hostility to the possibility of a new transmission line through the county.

Similar hearings are in Storm Lake, Spencer, Emmetsburg, Cherokee and Paullina beginning Tuesday, May 31. Comments may be submitted on line here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Arrested Leaving Laurens

One cold January night a young man left Laurens with a small amount of marijuana hidden in his car. He drove straight into the hands of the law. On May 24 he was sentenced to six months in the county jail. The sentence was suspended and replaced with probation.

He is 18-year-old Kevin Bergen of Albert City. He was stopped by sheriff deputy Brian Runneberg. According to court papers Runneberg pulled Bergen over as he was turning from N-28 toward Albert City because Runneberg "recognized the vehicle and had knowledge that the plates were expired." Deputy Runneberg also reported Bergen's car "has been parked at a known house in Laurens with drug activity."

Runneberg asked permission to search Bergen's car but Bergen initially declined, according to Runneberg's report of the incident. Later Bergen agreed to a search. Runneberg found no contraband. Nevertheless he impounded the car, telling Bergen "that since the vehicle wasn't registered to him and had no proof of insurance and expired plates that the vehicle was going to be towed." Later a dog found a "small" amount of marijuana in the air vent of the car.

Bergen's driver's license was suspended after his guilty plea to the misdemeanor crime of possession of marijuana. He has been ordered to pay court costs and to accept treatment from Community and Family Resources of Fort Dodge.

Iowa's court system spends about a million dollars a week on marijuana cases. An estimated 20% of young Iowa adults use marijuana every year.