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Iowa Electric Transmission Line Franchise (8-IA-a)

In order to site and construct transmission lines in Iowa, a developer needs to obtain an Electric Transmission Line Franchise (“Franchise”) from the Iowa Utilities Board (“IUB”), which is a division of the Iowa Department of Commerce. A developer can obtain a Franchise by submitting an Electric Transmission Line Franchise Petition (“Petition”) with IUB. The Petition process and Franchises are governed by Iowa Code § 478 and Iowa Admin. Code § 199.11.

Note: If a transmission line cannot operate at a capacity of 69kV or greater, the developer does not need a Franchise for that line, but IUB still retains jurisdiction over the transmission line. I.C. § 478.1(3). The developer still needs to obtain any necessary land rights in order to construct the transmission line.

Electric Transmission Line Franchise Process

8-IA-a.1 to 8-IA-a.2 – Is the Entire Transmission Line on Land Owned by the Developer?

If the entire transmission line will be located on land owned by the developer, or the end user of the electric power, a Franchise is not needed. I.C. § 478.1(2).

8-IA-a.3 to 8-IA-a.4 – Is the Entire Transmission Line Within City Limits?

If the entire transmission line will be located within the limits of a city, a Franchise is not needed. I.C. § 478.1(1); I.C. § 478.2(1); I.A.C. § 199.11.1(5). However, the developer will most likely need the city’s approval of the project. City approval processes and procedures may vary, and the developer should contact the city directly to determine what steps the developer must take in order to undertake the project there.

8-IA-a.5 – Will the Project Extend for One or More Miles Across Private Land?

If the proposed project would extend for one mile or more across private land, then an informational meeting must be held before the developer can file a Petition. If the project extends less than one mile across private land, the developer can file a Petition without first having an informational meeting. I.A.C. § 199.11.4.

8-IA-a.6 – Give Affected Public Notice of Informational Meeting

Before filing a Petition with IUB, the developer must determine which members of the public the transmission lines will affect. The developer serves notice to those members of the public about an informational meeting that will be held on the project. I.C. § 478.2(3). That notice must be served no less than thirty (30) days and no more than two (2) years prior to the time set for the meeting. I.C. § 478.2(3)(c). The developer serves a written copy of the notice by certified United States mail with a return receipt requested, on all affected parties whose residence is known. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(1)(b). The developer must also publish a notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the affected county at least one week, but not more than three weeks before the time of the meeting. I.C. § 478.2(3)(c); I.A.C. § 199.11.5(1)(c).

The notice must contain:

  • The name of the developer;
  • The developer’s principal place of business;
  • A general description and purpose of the proposed project;
  • A general nature of the right-of-way desired;
  • The possibility that the right-of-way may be acquired by condemnation if approved by IUB;
  • A map showing the route of the proposed project;
  • A description of the process used by IUB in making a decision on whether to approve a franchise or grant the right to take property by eminent domain;
  • A statement that the landowner has the right to be present at such meetings and to file objections with IUB; and
  • The place and time of the meeting.

I.C. § 478.2(3)(b).

The developer and IUB coordinate to determine the time, date and location of the informational meeting. I.A.C. § 199.11.4(4).

8-IA-a.7 – Hold Public Informational Meeting

The informational public meeting takes place at the date and time described in the notice. The meeting takes place at a location reasonably accessible to all persons that may be affected by the proposed project. I.C. § 478.2(2)(b); I.A.C. § 199.11.4(2). The developer must negotiate and pay for the cost of a suitable facility where the meeting can be held. I.A.C. § 199.11.4(1). Each county that will be affected by the proposed project will have its own separate informational meeting located within that county. I.C. § 478.2(2).

A member of IUB, the counsel to IUB or a hearing examiner designated by IUB must serve as the presiding officer at each meeting. At that meeting, the presiding officer must inform the affected individuals of their legal rights, and distribute and review a statement of individual rights. I.C. § 478.2(2)(a).

The developer sends a qualified person to the meeting who can give details about the proposed project. If the undertaking is a joint effort by more than one entity, the other developers must also be represented at the informational meeting by qualified personnel to speak for them on the same matters. These project details include:

  • The utility service requirements and planning which have resulted in the proposed construction;
  • When the transmission line will be constructed;
  • The physical construction, appearance and typical location of poles and conductors with respect to property lines;
  • How the developer intends to acquire easements;
  • Procedures to be followed in contacting affected parties for specific negotiations in acquiring voluntary easements;
  • Methods and factors used for determining an offered price for voluntary easements;
  • The manner in which voluntary easement payments are made, including discussion of conditional easements, signing fees and time of payment; and
  • Other factors or damages not included in the easement for which compensation is made.

I.A.C. § 199.11.4(3).

8-IA-a.8 – Negotiate Necessary Easements

If an informational meeting is required, the developer must refrain from entering easement or other interests in land negotiations with private parties in the affected counties until after the informational meeting(s) has taken place. I.C. § 478.2(4). If no informational meeting was required, the developer can enter into negotiations at any time.

8-IA-a.9 to 8-IA-a.11 – Electric Franchise Petition

If no informational meeting is required, the developer may file a Petition with IUB. If an informational meeting was held, the developer must wait until thirty (30) days after the informational meeting to file a Petition. IUB Franchise FAQ.

The developer should file the Petition on the form given by IUB, as well as have the Petition notarized prior to filing. I.A.C. § 199.11.2(1). A copy of a blank Petition can be found on the IUB Electric Franchise Website, but the developer should confirm with IUB that the form provided will suffice. When the developer files the Petition, the Petition must include basic information such as the developer’s name, address and contact information as well as the following exhibits:

  • Exhibit A: A legal description of the route. The description must include the name of the county, the maximum and nominal voltages in the line, the beginning and ending points of the line, and whether the route is on public, private, or railroad right-of-way. In the case of the multicounty projects, the description must identify all counties involved in the total project and any termini located in other counties;
  • Exhibit B (2 copies): A map showing the route of the transmission line drawn with reasonable accuracy considering the scale. The map may be to any scale appropriate for the level of detail to be shown, but not smaller than one inch to the mile. On the map, the developer will include the following information:
    • The route of the electric line, including starting and end points and, when paralleling a road or railroad, which side it is on;
    • Designation of line sections with double circuit construction or underbuild;
    • The name of the county, county and section lines, section numbers, and the township and range numbers;
    • The location and identity of roads, major streams and bodies of water, and any other pertinent natural or man-made features influencing the route;
    • The names and corporate limits of cities.
    • The names and boundaries of any public lands or parks, recreational areas, preserves or wildlife refuges;
    • All electric supply lines, including the developer’s within six-tenths of a mile of the route, including the nominal voltage and whether overhead or buried, and the name and address of the owners;
    • Any lines to be removed or relocated;
    • The location of railroad rights-of-way, including the name and address of the owners;
    • The location of airports or landing strips within one mile of the route, along with the name and address of the owners;
    • The location of pipelines used for the transportation of any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance, except water, within six-tenths of a mile of the route, along with the name and address of the owners;
    • The name and address of the owners of telephone, communication, or cable television lines within six-tenths of a mile of the route. The location of these lines need not be shown; and
    • The name and address of the owners of rural water districts with facilities within six-tenths of a mile of the route. The location of these facilities need not be shown;
  • Exhibit C: Technical information and engineering specifications describing typical materials, equipment and assembly methods as specified on forms provided by IUB;
  • Exhibit D: A written text containing the following:
    • An allegation, with supporting testimony, that the line is necessary to serve a public use;
    • If the route or any portion thereof is not near and parallel to roads, railroad right-of-way, or along division lines of the lands, a showing of why such parallel routing is not practicable or reasonable; and
    • If the route and manner of construction would result in separate pole lines for two or more electric supply lines occupying the same road right-of-way, a request that IUB authorize separate pole lines and justification for the authorization;
  • Exhibit E (if eminent domain is requested): A map of the route showing the location of each property for which the right of eminent domain is sought, and for each property:
    • A legal description of the property;
    • A legal description of the desired easement;
    • A specific description of the easement rights being sought;
    • The names and addresses of all persons with an ownership interest in the property and of all tenants; and
    • A map drawn to an appropriate scale showing the boundaries of the property, the boundaries and dimensions of the proposed easement, the location of all electric lines and supports within the proposed easement, the location of and distance to any building within 100 feet of the proposed electric line, and any other features pertinent to the location of the line and its supports or to the rights being sought;
  • Exhibit F: The notice given to potentially affected parties; and
  • Exhibit G (if an informational meeting was held): The affidavit of the informational meeting and copies of the mailed notice letter and the published notice(s) of the informational meeting.

I.C. § 478.3(1); I.A.C. § 199.11.2(1).

In addition, if the proposed project will cross one or more miles of privately owned land the Petition must provide a statement that the proposed construction represents a reasonable relationship to an overall plan of transmitting electricity in the public interest. The developer should support the statement, and can do so by using factors including, but not limited to:

  • The relationship of the proposed project to present and future economic development of the area;
  • The relationship of the proposed project to comprehensive electric utility planning;
  • The relationship of the proposed project to the needs of the public presently served and future projections based on population trends;
  • The relationship of the proposed project to the existing electric utility system and parallel existing utility routes;
  • The relationship of the proposed project to any other power system planned for the future;
  • The possible use of alternative routes and methods of supply;
  • The relationship of the proposed project to the present and future land use and zoning ordinances; and
  • The inconvenience or undue injury which may result to property owners as a result of the proposed project.

I.C. § 478.3(2).

IUB reviews the Petition to make sure all the appropriate information is included. If the Petition is missing information, IUB requests that the developer provide the information needed.

8-IA-a.12 - Give Notice of Franchise Petition

After receiving a Petition, IUB prepares a notice addressed to the citizens of each county that the proposed project extends through, and sends the notice to the developer. The developer then publishes the notice in a newspaper in each county for two (2) consecutive weeks. The developer must send proof of this publication to IUB. I.C. § 478.5; I.A.C. § 199.11.5(2)(a). The developer also delivers, by mail and in writing, notice of the Petition filing to the owners of the lands over which easements have not been obtained, no later than the first day of the newspaper publication. The developer must send copies of the letters to IUB no later than five (5) days after the date of the second newspaper publication. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(2)(b).

These notices must contain a general statement of the contents and purpose of the Petition, a general description of the lands and highways to be traversed by the proposed project, and a statement that any objections to the Petition must be filed in writing with IUB no later than twenty (20) days after the date of the last newspaper publication of the notice. I.C. § 478.5. The notice must also contain a map and legal description of the proposed route or a phone number and address through which interested parties can request that information. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(2)(c); I.A.C. § 199.11.5(2)(d).

8-IA-a.13 – Objections to Petition (If Applicable)

Any person, company, city or corporation whose rights may be affected, has the right to file written objections to the Petition. Objections must be filed with IUB no later than twenty (20) days after the date of the last newspaper publication and must state the grounds for the objection. IUB may allow objections to be filed later if IUB decides it is important to do so, in which case, the developer is given reasonable time to meet those late objections. I.C. § 478.5.

8-IA-a.14 – Are Any Objections Filed?

If there are any objections to the Petition filed, IUB schedules a hearing on the proposed project. I.C. § 478.6.

8-IA-a.15 – Is the Developer Requesting Eminent Domain?

If the developer is requesting to take property under the right of eminent domain, IUB schedules a hearing on the proposed project. I.C. § 478.6.

8-IA-a.16 – Does IUB Decide a Hearing is Necessary?

If the developer is not requesting eminent domain and no objections are filed, IUB has discretion to determine whether or not a hearing is required prior to granting the Franchise. I.C. § 478.4; IUB Franchise FAQ.

8-IA-a.17 – Give Notice of Hearing

When a hearing is necessary because objections were filed, IUB serves written notice on the developer and the persons objecting, giving the time and place of the hearing. If the hearing is necessary because the developer is requesting eminent domain, IUB serves written notice to the developer and owners of the lands subject to the eminent domain request, and provides the landowners with a statement of their individual rights. I.C. § 478.4. The notices are served by certified United States mail, with return receipt requested, and the notices must be mailed no later than the first day of publication of the official hearing notice. The written notice must include a copy of Exhibit E from the developer’s Petition. The developer files the return receipt with IUB no less than five (5) days prior to the date of hearing. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(3).

Note: There are no specific notice requirements if there are no objections and the developer is not requesting eminent domain, but IUB still determines a hearing is necessary. In such a scenario, IUB will likely give notice to those persons IUB believe make the hearing necessary.

8-IA-a.18 – Hold Public Hearing

If IUB determines that a public hearing is necessary, IUB sets a time and place for the hearing to take place. The hearing will be held no less than thirty (30) days after the date of the last notice publication. Generally, the hearings are held in the county seat of the county located at the midpoint of the proposed transmission line, but if the proposed transmission line is less than one mile in length, the hearing is held at IUB’s office in Des Moines. I.C. § 478.6; IUB Franchise FAQ. At the hearing, IUB hears testimony from interested parties, including the developer, to help determine whether or not a Franchise should be granted. I.C. § 478.4.

8-IA-a.19 – Does IUB Approve of the Electric Franchise?

In making a decision, IUB examines the proposed route of the transmission line. IUB may also use the public and developer’s input, in determining whether the Franchise should be granted. Before granting the Franchise, IUB must make a finding that the proposed line or lines are necessary to serve a public use and represents a reasonable relationship to an overall plan of transmitting electricity in the public interest. If IUB decides to approve the proposed project, it may require additional conditions such as modifications to the location or route. I.C. § 478.4.

8-IA-a.20 to 8-IA-a.21 – Prepare Form of Franchise

Once a Franchise has bee approved, IUB general counsel prepares a blank form of franchise. This blank form is filled out and signed by the chairperson of IUB. Once filled out, the form includes a general description of the Franchise authorized, the name and address of the developer, the general terms and conditions upon which the Franchise is granted, and other things as necessary. Lastly, the official seal of IUB is attached to the form. I.C. § 478.7.

The developer must agree to the provisions in the form of franchise in order to accept the Franchise. If the developer does not agree to the terms, then no Franchise is granted. I.C. § 478.12.

8-IA-a.22 – Electric Franchise

Once a Franchise is granted, IUB makes a record of the Franchise, and include the following information:

  • When the Franchise was issued;
  • Who the Franchise was issued to; and
  • A general statement of the Franchise location, route and termini of the transmission line(s).

I.C. § 478.11.

The Franchise will not be for a period exceeding twenty-five (25) years, and the developer will need to renew the Franchise when the current one expires. I.C. § 478.9. The developer is also vested with the power of condemnation, subject to IUB’s approval and finding it necessary for public use. I.C. § 478.6.

The developer must notify IUB in writing that construction has been completed within ninety (90) days after completion of project construction. This notice must include the Franchise and docket numbers and the date the Franchise was issued. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(5)(a).

If the project construction is not completed two (2) years after the date the Franchise was issued, the developer must notify IUB in writing prior to that date. If construction has begun, the developer must give IUB a report on the construction progress. I.A.C. § 199.11.5(5)(b).

If the project is not constructed in whole or in part within two (2) years after the date the Franchise is granted, or if the project is condemned, the developer forfeits the Franchise unless the developer successfully petitions IUB for a time extension. I.C. § 478.21; I.A.C. § 199.11.5(5)(c).

Note: If judicial review is sought, and the Franchise is approved, the two (2) year time limit will begin at the time the judicial decision is made.

8-IA-a.23 – Appeal Decision

A developer or a member of the public aggrieved by IUB’s decision in granting a denying a Franchise, may request a rehearing within twenty (20) days after IUB issues its decision. After receiving a request, IUB has thirty (30) days to grant or refuse the rehearing request. I.C. § 476.12.

If a rehearing is refused, the aggrieved party may seek a judicial review of IUB’s decision. I.C. § 478.32. The Iowa Supreme Court assigns a district judge in the county where the developer maintains its principal place of business to handle the review. If the developer does not maintain its principal place of business in Iowa, a Polk county district court judge will be assigned to the matter. I.C. § 476.13.

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Contact Information

Edit Iowa Utilities Board
Electric Transmission Line Franchise Contact (515) 725-7352 donabbazabbastursma@iubabbazabbaiowaabbazabbagov