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Take a stand against utility to save historic farm

Posted on February 12, 2013

Steve PollickIn the 1830s, the Wyandot tribe gave 1,100 acres of land on the lower Sandusky River in present-day Sandusky County to James and Elizabeth Whittaker, thought to be the first white settlers north of the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Detroit. James was their one-time captive.

Miraculously a goodly chunk of the original tract survives, conscientiously conserved, though a serious threat looms – about which we will discuss presently.

Now known as Peninsular Farms, the remaining Whittaker Reserve is 400 acres that includes three miles of scenic river beauty, 200 acres of some of the most productive farmland in Ohio, and another 200 acres of incredibly diverse habitats of woods, meadows, wetlands, and riverside lands that are home to deer, great horned owls, hawks and countless other species. Not to mention two pairs of bald eagles that nest there.

 In 2001, current owner Don Miller and the Black Swamp Conservancy land trust, of Perrysburg, signed a perpetual land conservation agreement, which committed Miller and his family-- and every future owner of the farm -- to forever maintaining this special place just the way it is today.

Each fall, Miller invites a small group of hunters onto the farm during deer season. During the Biggest Week bird watching festival last spring, birders from England, southern California, Washington state and parts unknown walked the farm’s world-class bird habitat.

But now comes First Energy, the electric utility giant, which is not bound by perpetual land conservation agreements. It plans to string two 138,000 volt electric lines – complete with 80-foot tall poles on a bush-hogged 60-foot wide path -- straight through the heart of the farm and across the river. The plan is a disaster in the making – from the actual land butchering to the public relations backlash that First Energy is courting.

Hey folks, this is all about a simply redrawing of plans on the utility’s grand planning board, a simple re-routing. It can be done, especially given utilities’ abilities to do as they please with siting rights-of-way. We need to preserve the history, family farms, woods and wetlands of the former Great Black Swamp. And mixing high-voltage lines and our national symbol the bald eagle is a recipe for disaster.

On a personal note, once upon a time AT&T planned to place a utility pole for an Internet line right in the middle of my front yard on the guest parking area on my rural property. Till I vigorously intervened and sought their cooperation instead of legal confrontation.  Ultimately, AT&T’s willing and reasonable agreement to relocation of said pole and a win-win good neighbor situation.

FirstEnergy can do the same by avoiding cutting up Peninsular Farms with high-tension lines. Yes, we need high-voltage power transmission lines; but this routing is an exceptional case. Help out by contacting  FirstEnergy by mail, phone, or email – or all three.  Send your comment to: Mia Moore, director, external affairs, FirstEnergy Corp.,6896 Miller Rd., Brecksville, OH 44141. Or call 440-546-4887, or e-mail mlmoore@firstenergycorp.com.