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.