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Veteran Contributor

soybean field/transmission lines down

About a month ago a tornado came through, dropped transmission lines and twisted towers in 200 acres of beans.  Since then I've watched utility workers cut up towers and cables in the field, drop them on the ground, push cranes and trucks through the mud with bulldozers and run over steel remains and push them into the ground.  I've taken hundreds of pictures and will get overhead photos soon. 

 

How do I settle with the utility over the crop damage and the future damage that I may incur due to flat tires?  How do get them to recover the steel cables and angle iron that's been covered up?   Would it be worth scouring the areas with a metal detector to get anything the workers missed?  Has anyone had any experience with this problem?   I was told it cost the utility $1 million dollars a day when the lines are out of service.  I guess that's why they don't seem to be very careful.                       help

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6 Replies
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Senior Contributor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

I have a similar problem with a pipeline. One came thru my farm in 2009. They haven't finished leveling, or cleaning up the ROW. Now 2 years crop lost. In addition, during construction, they ran into a groundwater problem . The contract said that they could exceed the ROW, but must pay for extra damages. They talked to me and received permission to pump water intio my field, but would compensate me.

They partially ruined about 6 acres of corn. I have sent numerous e-mails asking for compensation. To date, They haven't even contacted me.

This is arrorgant of them. They have company lawyers. The amount doesn't justify legal action on my part.

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Advisor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

Old man, You should have gotten exact dollar amounts that would have been compensated before the work started.  Anyhow if the company will not contact you and you don't want to get a lawyer involved I would put in a complaint with the BBB (www.bbb.org).  If nothing else happens at least there is a record of the irresponsibility of the company.  I have settled some small disputes by doing this, mostly to my favor.  This is because the company wants a favorable outcome, especially if they are a member of the BBB.

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Senior Contributor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

central ill, don't forget to include potential future losses from compaction. I like your metal detector idea but I would ask them to do it first and if they don'y reply or say no then you can justify billing them for the cost of the detector and your hours.

I've had a little luck with insurance companies after accidents left cars in the field making areas unharvestable. Those were small claims, sounds like you have acres involved.

I would also GPS the impacted area with details about the ground condition in specific areas. That will give you an accurate acreage number to negotiate with. If you use yield maps and that area has a high than average production use that to your advantage. Then make a big spread sheet and send them the bill. If its rented ground you will of course need the owners signature on the bill.
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Honored Advisor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

":Future" damages are not usually compensable, from what I've been told by counsel. 

Your crop losses in comparison to their business losses at this point are not of much concern to them.  They will not compensate you for one penny more than you can document under the terms of the contract, but they will compensate you to the extent the contract requires, when that damage is quantified. 

Keep taking pictures. and take pictures of the undamaged portions of the field for fair comparison.  It will be reasonable to ask for the difference in the overall yield on the field, and what you actually end up with in the affected area.  Alternative might be average production yield data for that field. 

If it's a significant loss to you, then it is worth a few hundred bucks to hire an attorney to advise you.  you'll probably end up with sending them a letter, asking them to quantify the crop losses by acres ground under by their activity, and to search for and remove buried and exposed metal scrap. 

It is probably premature to approach them in the middle of the repairs...they may be planning to remove the metal when they are done, for liability reasons.  The settlement for the damage will not enrich you...hopefully it will make you whole. 

That is all that is reasonably anticipated from such a situation...you don't end up worse, but you don't end up better off, either.  The more in line you keep your communications with the company, the better. 

Is your field the only one affected by this damage?  If not, then perhaps a group of you could retain counsel together to address the situation and spare costs to each one individually. 

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Veteran Contributor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

I have taken rolls of pictures and may even go up in a plane to take even more.  The utility said they would share overhead photos with me but they seem to be avoiding me as they get closer to completion. 

 

My fields took about 90% of the damage so I'm pretty much on my own. I told them that they only had access to 66 feet on either side of the towers but they said they were losing $1 million a day while the lines were shut down  so they would take shortcuts through the field in order to speed the process.  A pipeline was recently  installed on the farm adjacent to the power lines so if they pay as well and clean up the mess I'll consider myself lucky.  We've had twice the rain as normal so that's causing even a bigger mess. 

 

They wanted me to fill out a form suggesting how much damage there was but it seems if they do this every day they should have a formula on how to compensate landowners in place. 

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Honored Advisor

Re: soybean field/transmission lines down

Don't know what it will cost you to flyover, or if that actually does any good in a way, as you haven't got technical ability to factor acreage directly from an unscaled photograph, I am guessing.  You can estimate, but their photo will allow you to do that, and they will probably have a scaled - and thus calculable - image.  I'd check the date on any phots you use, to be sure it shows all the damage. 

I would not submit a final estimate, since the work on the line is incomplete, and more damage can and probably will occur.    If you do submit anything at this point, I'd get an attorney to advise as to how to leave the door open for any further damages found or created after this estimate's date. 

People are not so much avoiding you, as they are probably trying to wind up a very expensive damage situation.  As I think I may have indicated before, the whole 200 acres of beans is change to them, if they are truly losing a million bucks a day in transmission capability...don't know exacfly what that means, unless that power is being wheeled elsewhere, and they are losing the fees for carrying it. 

Most of the time, there are some "act of God" types of provisions in any contract.  Your granted right-of-way is theirs to use as they see fit, but the shortcuts they've taken since to get across are not.  Have they been allowing you to use the ROW for crop all along, even though that is their ROW?  They may see that as a fair tradeoff over time, and they may be right, if so. 

Crop damages in areas where things like this line  and your adjacent pipeline cross fields ought to have been spelled out in the original contract.  Have that in hand and get some legal advice. 

I'd ask them for a metal cleanup, immediately following restoration of power across the line, and a meeting to discuss the crop damages after that, too.  It's not like you are ready to harvest the field this month, is it?  Get some counsel!

 

Never agree to anything on the first meeting and at first offer, without counsel to clarify for you what your rights are and are not.  I have been dealing with a mining company on one farm since 1996, and I never let anyone rush me into a decision, until counsel has reviewed any offers...and I know the contract better than the mining company's management does by now, since their management team has changed five or six times in the duration of this situation.     

 No one can make you sign or accept anything, and if anyone pressures you, they are trying to put one over on you.  I just take the information - such as their aerials and assurances - and any offer they make, and say I will think it over.  Any reasonable person expects you to take time to look over a proffered solution, adn to get legal advice. 

You or a previous owner received a payment for this ROW, and gave up some rights, expected to deal with some inconvenience in the process of hosting a big transmission line.  That chicken has come home to roost...they always do.  This is the downside of such arrangements.  If you are lucky, they only come once in a lifetime.  I've been dealing with the one my father created for me in the form of that mining lease for 14 years, and there is no real end in sight yet. 

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