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Local

Conservation to allocate $333K from easement to Red Rock Prairie Trail

Supervisors approve replacement of 131 electrical poles along path

Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante approached the board of supervisors Tuesday to approve the replacement of 131 electrical poles along Red Rock Prairie trail, paid for by MidAmerican Energy. She also requested to allocate the $333,050 worth of acquired easement funds to the $2.1 million Red Rock Prairie Trail project.
Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante approached the board of supervisors Tuesday to approve the replacement of 131 electrical poles along Red Rock Prairie trail, paid for by MidAmerican Energy. She also requested to allocate the $333,050 worth of acquired easement funds to the $2.1 million Red Rock Prairie Trail project.

In the midst of applying for several federal grants to pay for the phase one development of the estimated $2.1 million Red Rock Prairie Trail, the Jasper County Conservation Board has spotted an opportunity to acquire additional funding elsewhere to help pay the grants’ required local match dollars.

During the weekly Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning, Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante asked county leaders to allocate $333,050 provided from MidAmerican Energy for replacing 131 electrical poles along Red Rock Prairie Trail to the bulk of the trail project’s construction fees, upon the board’s acceptance of the easement.

Specifically, Van Zante said the funds would be utilized to meet the 80/20 match required for federal grants. A majority of the $1.2 million collected for the Red Rock Prairie Trail project thus far consists of federal money rather than state or local dollars.

“When I see this easement coming my way of non-federal money ... if the conservation board would be able to keep that money and put it toward the project, it kind of solves my problem of matching all those federal grants that we have,” Van Zante told the board. “This easement kind of came at a great time while we’re writing all these grants for this project.”

The easement itself allows MidAmerican Energy to survey the 8.3-mile Red Rock Prairie Trail from Monroe to Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City and replace aging electrical poles along the pathway with newer structures, placing them 300 feet apart as opposed to 600 feet. The Des Moines-based energy company has agreed to pay $66,610 — or 20 percent of the total easement price — upon signing the agreement.

MidAmerican Energy is then allowed to conduct its engineering investigations such as core boring and soil testing, as well as remove any trees or vegetation growing in or around the nearly 27-acre easement area which may interfere with or endanger facilities.

The company will also install access gates to the easement area and has agreed to repair or pay for any damage caused to crops, fences and other Jasper County property during the pole replacement process, according to option and easement documents produced by MidAmerican Energy. Removal of trees, branches, saplings, brush or other nearby vegetation adjacent to the site is not considered damage.

The Jasper County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the easement along the Red Rock Prairie Trail. Following the board’s decision, chairman Doug Cupples directed the discussion toward Van Zante’s request to appropriate funds gathered from MidAmerican Energy to the trail project.

“What do you guys think?” Cupples asked his fellow supervisors.

Denny Carpenter, vice chair, nodded in approval. Board member Joe Brock said he was in favor of transferring the money acquired from the easement with the power company to the bike trail project.

The trail has been in development since 2014. Jasper County Conservation teamed up with local community leaders in Prairie City and Monroe and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to acquire an 11-mile abandoned rail bed extending from Monroe to Highway F62 West southeast of Prairie City to Highway S27 near Mitchellville.

“Good work,” Brock said. “That’s a lot of money.”

Van Zante replied, “It is a lot of money. It’s amazing to me how much it costs to do bike trails. This grant money, the things that I’m applying for, it’s not for roads or anything else; it’s specifically for bike trails and for connecting communities. So it’s not taking money from any other projects.”

The conservation director said she had been approved of numerous grants to fund the roughly $2.1 million project, including a $510,000 Federal Lands Access Program grant, a $263,711 Federal Recreational Trails grant, a $240,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant and a $116,839 State Recreational Trails grant, among others. The project has also received local contributions from Prairie City and Monroe. Cupples commended Van Zante’s work surrounding the project and for continuing to seek out additional grants.

“Keri, I don’t know how you do all this stuff and get all this money to work. It seems amazing. It will be good for exactly what you’re doing,” he said.

The supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the appropriation of funds from the MidAmerican Energy easement proposition to the Red Rock Prairie trail project.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

• Voted 3-0 to approve the use of the Jasper County Courthouse for the 4-H Festival of Trees. Staff will use the property to set up from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19 before removing materials from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 27.

• Voted 3-0 to approve the Zoning Commission’s request to appoint a Stacey Blink to replace Janice Jontz.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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