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Iowa State Land Right-of-Way (3-IA-b)

In Iowa, a developer may need to obtain a State Land Right-of-Way Permit (“Permit”) from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (“IDNR”) in order to place transmission lines or other structures on state-owned land. A State Land Right-of-Way Permit can come in the form of a State Land Lease or State Land Easement. Easements are issued by IDNR, and leases are issued by the Iowa Executive Council, subject to the rules laid out in I.C. § 461A and I.A.C. § 571.13.


State Land Right-of-Way Process

3-IA-b.1 – Contact IDNR

A developer should first contact the Natural Resource Commission (“NRC”) of IDNR, and lay out their proposal to NRC. The Iowa NRC Website provides information about NRC as well as links to contact information for members of NRC.

3-IA-b.2 to 3-IA-b.5 – Joint Application Form

After discussing the proposal with NRC, the developer needs to complete the Joint Application Form (“Application”) and submit it to NRC. The Application can be found on the IDNR Sovereign Lands Construction Permits Website, but depending on the proposal, NRC may request a different or additional Application form.

In the Application, the developer must state the need for the proposed project, discuss the availability of alternatives, and propose measures to prevent, minimize or mitigate adverse impacts to natural resources or public use of the affected area. I.A.C. § 571.13.9.

NRC reviews the Application for completeness. If the Application is incomplete, NRC may reject it. I.A.C. § 571.13. For an application to be deemed complete, it must:

  • Provide the name(s), mailing address and telephone number of the developer;
  • Describe the proposed project, including:
    • The physical address and legal description of the location where the proposed project will occur;
    • A written description of existing natural and man-made structures and features
    • An aerial photograph, if possible or available, of the location;
    • A ground-level photograph of the location;
    • Schematic or design plans, including cross sections and plan views that accurately and clearly depict the proposed project;
    • A description of the construction methods used to complete the project, the methods used to transport material to the site, and the type and amount of material to be used;
    • A description of measures proposed to prevent or minimize adverse impacts on the property in the proposed area;
    • A description of any borrows or disposal sites, including the location of any borrows or disposal sites, and the type and amount of material to be borrowed or disposed of in them;
  • Include an identification of the ordinary high water line, if the proposed project is in or near a lake or river owned by the state;
  • Describe alternative plans that may be available to undertake the project;
  • Identify why the project needs to occur in the proposed location; and
  • Provide a statement of consent for IDNR to enter the property during the term of the proposed lease.

I.A.C. § 571.13.9(1).

3-IA-b.6 – Does NRC Approve the Proposed Permit?

NRC makes a determination on the Permit proposal. If NRC does not approve of the Permit, the developer can either submit another application that is more appealing to NRC, or find another location for siting the transmission project.

NRC looks at several factors when making a determination to approve or reject the proposed Permit, including whether the proposed Permit will:

  • Impair the state’s intended use of the area;
  • Negatively impact a federal interest; and
  • Result in exclusive use of the land.

I.A.C. § 571.13.51.


3-IA-b.7 – What Type of Permit is Being Applied For?

The process varies depending on what type of Permit (Easement or Lease) the developer is seeking.

If the developer is seeking an Easement, the developer and the Director of IDNR or the Director’s designee (“Director”) negotiates the Permit. If the developer is seeking a Lease, the matter is passed from IDNR to the Iowa Executive Council (“IEC”). I.C. § 461A.25.

3-IA-b.8 to 3-IA-b.10 – Negotiate Land Easement Permit

The developer and the Director negotiate the terms of the Easement so that a permit may be obtained. If the Easement is for a term of five (5) years or less, IDNR can grant the Easement without NRC’s approval. If the term of the Easement exceeds five (5) years, then IDNR needs to get approval from NRC before the Easement can be granted. I.C. § 461A.25.

The Director determines the value of the Easement based upon a real estate appraisal or other method approved by NRC. In addition to fees for the Easement, the developer may have to pay reasonable transaction costs associated with the issuing of the Easement, including the cost of appraisals and land surveys. In determining the fee for the Easement, the Director may consider the effect the proposed project has on IDNR’s management of the affected property. I.A.C. § 571.13.52(2).

3-IA-b.11 – Land Easement Permit

Once the Easement has been negotiated and approved by the necessary parties, IDNR and the developer may execute a State Land Easement Right-of-Way Permit.

3-IA-b.12 – Recommend the Proposed Lease to Executive Council

If the developer is seeking a Right-of-Way Permit in the form of a State Land Lease, and NRC approves of the proposed Permit, NRC then passes the matter to IEC. When NRC passes the matter to IEC, NRC also sends a recommendation to issue a Right-of-Way Permit to the developer. I.C. § 461A.25.

3-IA-b.13 to 3-IA-b.15– Is the Proposed Lease for a Time Period Exceeding Five (5) Years?

If the proposed Lease does not exceed five (5) years, IEC can negotiate with the developer and issue a Right-of-Way Permit. If the proposed Lease does exceed five (5) years, then, prior to issuing a Lease, IEC must advertise for bids to lease the land in the proposal. I.C. § 461A.25. The developer should place a bid if the developer is still seeking a Right-of-Way Permit via Lease for this land.

3-IA-b.16 – Does Executive Council Accept Developer’s Bid?

When evaluating bids, IEC chooses the bid that is the “most desirable bid.” I.C. § 461A.25. Some factors that would likely make a bid more or less desirable include:

  • The price of the Lease;
  • The length of the Lease; and
  • The proposed use of the land, including public access and the construction of new structures;

If IEC chooses to approve the bid of another bidder that is not the developer, the lease goes to that other bidder.

3-IA-b.17 – Negotiate Land Lease Permit

If the proposed Lease did not exceed five (5) years, or if the developer’s bid is accepted, the developer and IEC negotiate any final remaining terms of the Lease. IEC has ultimate discretion in determining whether or not to enter into a Lease.

3-IA-b.18 – Land Lease Permit

After the Lease is fully negotiated, the developer and IEC executes the State Land Lease Right-of-Way Permit. The term of the Lease may not exceed fifty (50) years, and the public retains the right to enter the leased property for any lawful purpose. I.C. § 461A.25.

3-IA-b.19 – Appeal Decision

A developer may appeal the decision of IDNR to the Director regarding Leases and Easements and request that the Director reconsider a condition of an Easement or a Lease or a denial of an Easement or a Lease. The determination of the Director is final. I.A.C. § 571.13.53.


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Edit Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Natural Resources Commission Board Administrator (515) 725-8440