Marion County's opposition to the Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois' (ATXI) Mark Twain Transmission Project may soon reverse.

Marion County’s opposition to the Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois’ (ATXI) Mark Twain Transmission Project may soon reverse.

During the recent July meeting of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council (NEMO EDC), Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner of Marion County, reported the commissioners are inclined to support the proposed new route for the embattled power line project that is slated to extend from northern Marion County to Kirksville. The revised route will follow existing right-of-way that is owned by the Northeast Power Cooperative.

Marion County is one of five Northeast Missouri counties in the project’s footprint that has opposed the proposed 100-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line. The other four are Adair, Knox, Lewis and Schuyler counties.

Welch indicated that Marion County is not the only county that is apparently having a change of heart.

“Adair is a holdout. Once they are good everyone will be,” he said.

Welch estimated the county commission could take action before the end of July or in early August.

“Our attorney is advising us to rescind our letter against the project,” said Welch.

Marion County Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode, who last year opposed granting ATXI permission to use county roads during construction along the route that was initially proposed, told the Courier-Post in June that the revised route looked promising.

“I see it as a reasonable compromise if they use the co-location route but I am still waiting on their final decision and more public comments and input,” he said.

Since June, public opposition for the proposed project has softened, according to Welch.

“There’s not as many (property owners) opposing (the project) as there were,” he said.

While Marion County’s opposition to the project has not yet been re-addressed, ATXI’s new route has gained the support of the NEMO EDC. During its July 19 meeting it asked its executive director, George Walley, to send a letter of support for the project.

The NEMO EDC’s action followed a May appearance at its meeting by representatives of both ATXI and Northeast Power, who detailed the benefits of the redesigned route.

The power project encountered fierce resistance originally, with all five county commissions impacted voting not to support it. ATXI filed legal action against all five of the counties.

Since then, the project has been stalled in the gridlock of the Missouri courts system.

The Public Service Commission approved the necessary permits, provided ATXI receive assent — or permission to use county roads — from the impacted county commissions.

Neighbors United, a grassroots organization opposing the project, filed a lawsuit against, arguing that Missouri statute dictated county assent was needed before approval is given. A Missouri Court of Appeals sided with Neighbors United, vacating the PSC’s approval. The Missouri Supreme Court elected not to hear ATXI’s appeal to its court, letting the Court of Appeals decision stand.

With a reworked plan now before county commissions, it appears the Mark Twain Transmission project may yet receive the assent needed to garner PSC approval and begin construction.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com . Editor Eric Dundon contributed to this report.