Sometimes government does listen to the people and responds favorably, and a recently settled case before the Ohio Power Siting Board involving Peninsular Farms – a historic, scenic, conservancy-protected site near Fremont in Sandusky County – proves it.
The Board approved a route for the 138,000-volt Hayes West Transmission project that avoids Peninsular Farms, this after a public outcry over an initial plan to run the line smack through the farms.
Black Swamp Conservancy, of Perrysburg, a farmland preservation trust, called the OPSB decision “a tremendous victory for conservation, now and for future generations.” BSC credited a grass-roots campaign of letters, e-mails, and phone calls as being crucial to swaying the OPSB, which has final authority in siting of high-voltage electricity transmission lines.
The electric utility FirstEnergy initially planned in late 2012 to run new 138-kilovolt electric lines through the heart of Peninsular Farms, situated on a historic site on the scenic Sandusky River that BSC has preserved since 2001.
Along with individual efforts, the Conservancy engaged legal counsel, alerted the local media, and asked the community to voice their support for the property and conservation lands. In turn, hundreds of letters and emails were sent and phone calls were made on our behalf. In the end FirstEnergy re-drew its preferred, initial route to avoid this important historical and natural resource.
The transmission right-of-way initially proposed would have split the property with a 60-foot-wide swath and 80-foot tall power towers.
Rob Krain the conservancy’s executive director, said that Peninsular Farms represents everything that makes northwest Ohio special. It harbors three miles of scenic beauty for boaters and fishermen along the Sandusky River. It supports more than 200 acres of prime Ohio farmland – some of the most productive in the state. And, the property features over 200 acres of woods, meadows, wetlands, and riparian areas that are home to deer, great horned owls, hawks, and countless other species. Last, but by no means least, Peninsular Farms is home to two pairs of bald eagles and their active nests. It is owned by Don W. Miller, who agreed in 2001 to protect it in perpetuity through a conservation easement held by the Conservancy.
“Not only is this an amazing natural area, but the farm has historical significance as well,” said Krain at the height of the fight last winter. “In 1781, the Wyandot Tribe gave this land to James and Elizabeth Whittaker, making them the first white settlers north of the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Detroit. The Whittakers established a trading post here, which was burned down by British soldiers during the war of 1812 (the foundation of which is still located here), and are buried on the property. ”
Too often when it comes to such conservation controversies, money and politics win. No this time. And that is worth noting.