Simply put, a landowner grants certain rights to use property to another person or entity through an easement. Webster’s dictionary defines an easement as “a legal interest in real property that grants the right to use in some specified manner the property of another.” Many landowners prefer to grant an easement, covering surface rights only, rather than an outright sale of land for right-of-way. With an easement the landowner may reserve the right to use the property for planting crops or pasturing animals in rural areas, for example. But the use must not be incompatible with the rights granted in the easement.

AEP Transmission works with affected property owners

The company works with landowners at each step in the process. AEP attempts to balance landowner concerns and preferences with the need for electric infrastructure when locating rights-of-way

The company discusses with property owners easement rights and project specifics, including:

  • The length and width of the right-of-way
  • The number and placement of structures
  • The height and design of the structures
  • Voltage of the power line
  • Clearing and construction practices
  • Right-of-way access
  • Project schedule
  • Post-construction maintenance
  • Vegetation maintenance practices

AEP also pays for crop damage and/or physical damage to property resulting from the construction and/or maintenance of the transmission line.

What is allowed in the right-of-way easement?

Landowners may utilize property in an easement for a variety of uses including;

  • Yards and gardens
  • Farming
  • Other uses that do not interfere with the safe operation of electric facilities

Any item or activity that could interfere with the safe, reliable operation of transmission facilities is called an encroachment and is prohibited under the terms of a right-of-way acquisition. AEP will defend the easements it purchased to ensure reliable operation of its transmission system.

AEP can refrain from establishing new service at a property where there is an encroachment or where prohibited activities are occurring. AEP may also require an owner to remove an encroachment at the owner’s expense.

Examples of prohibited easement encroachments include:

  • Buildings, homes, porches, additions and decks
  • Barns, sheds, garages
  • Swimming pools located above and below ground
  • Retention ponds
  • Fuel storage facilities, above ground or below grade
  • Billboards
  • Fences that deny AEP access to the easement corridor
  • Uses of easement area for fill dirt or other refuse
  • Lights, flag poles and antennas
  • Swing sets, slides and climbing equipment
  • Certain types of trees and other vegetation

Examples of prohibited activities in an easement include:

  • Excavating near utility poles, towers and other facilities
  • Changing the ground elevation
  • Operating machinery in a manner that has the potential to contact or damage AEP facilities
  • Burning wood or refuse within the right-of-way

AEP makes every effort to avoid eminent domain

AEP Transmission acquires necessary easements through negotiations and by working with landowners, as long as is practical, to reach a voluntary agreement. It is only when a voluntary agreement cannot be reached, and other viable alternatives do not exist, that the final option of exercising the right of eminent domain is pursued. Eminent domain is outlined in the U.S. Constitution and state law. When a property is taken through eminent domain, the land is condemned and the property owner receives just compensation.

AEP’s use of eminent domain authority is the exception rather than the rule. Ninety-eight percent of easement negotiations are successful. AEP Transmission recently has acquired more than 3,500 easements -- totaling 906 miles of transmission line -- on projects approved by siting authorities in several states. Of those parcels, only 61 (or 1.71 percent) required the use of eminent domain. In some of those cases, acquisition by eminent domain was necessary simply because the land was without clear title, so condemnation was required.