I-Team: Farm Owner vs First Energy - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

I-Team: Farm Owner vs First Energy

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The 13abc I-Team has discovered a story of David versus Goliath.  It's a small land owner's fight against a major corporation.  That fight centers on a piece of Ohio history, a crown jewel of nature and rich farm land.  All of that can be found on one spot in Northwest Ohio and now many believe it's under attack.

It's an amazing site as the bald eagle, a symbol of American freedom soars across the Sandusky river.  These bald eagle calling Peninsular Farms home.

"It's very unique, there's nothing like it in northern Ohio," said Don Miller, Peninsular Farms' owner. 

Not one but two bald eagle nests are here.  A total of 4 eagles call the 474 acres home.  What's  harder to see is the history.  A headstone marks the final resting spot for Elizabeth and James Whittaker, the first white settlers in Ohio.  All of the land was given to them by the Wyandot Indians after the two were captured and James Whittaker impressed the tribe according to local historians. 

"It's been my life for a lot of years," said Miller. 

Miller is the caretaker of this land near Fremont.  His biggest concern now is power lines.

"I think we owe it to future generations to preserve this property," said Miller.         

First Energy, the parent company of Toledo Edison, is exploring the possibility of running 138 kv power lines through the property and across the Sandusky river. A First Energy spokeswoman says they could be up to 80 feet tall.  It's all part of an energy transmission loop from Fremont to east of Castalia.  Peninsular Farms' supporters say power lines create several problems, for example the eagles. 

"Their type of flight, especially the bald eagles they're kind of diving into wind and anything at the level or below becomes invisible to them," said Mark Shieldcastle of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

In the past few years the Millers and Black Swamp Conservancy have teamed together to try and prevent something like this.

"With the conservation easement, it's protected into perpetuity.  Unless a power company can put a power line across it, which we're definitely going to fight all the way," said Miller.    

"We work very closely on these types of projects with the US Fish and Wildlife service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ensure the safety of the wildlife in the area," said Patti Michel, a spokeswoman with First Energy. 

Michel says they choose a route with the least impact to the environment and property.  It's ultimately up to a state board to approve the final route of the lines.  During the 13abc I-Team  visit to the farm we spotted First Energy crews already doing some surveying.  They'll be back in April. 

"To look across the Sandusky river into the oak groves on this property and looking to see what the Indians saw 300 years ago, there's no place else in this county you can go and have that view," said Steve Gruner of the Sandusky County Park District.

"The historical value, all of the different conservation impacts all of those kinds of things we do take into consideration," said Michel. 

"The work that first energy does is supposed to be for the public benefit.  And I think this would be a tremendous disappointments and tragedy to have all this public benefits lost," said Kevin Joyce of the Black Swamp Conservancy. 

To contact First Energy about the project:

transmissionprojects@firstenergycorp.com or 1-800-589-2837

First Energy fact sheet on the project

Project's website 

Case file through Ohio Siting Board and Public Utility Commission of Ohio

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