In honor of National Right-of-Way (ROW) Professionals Week (June 13 – 19, 2021), we’d like to highlight Ulteig’s team of experts who specialize in ROW. We asked Ted Francois, Technical Manager-CFS, to share his insights about the critical role that professionals who acquire, manage and transfer the land rights play in the building and maintaining of energy and transportation infrastructure.
At Ulteig, we specialize in solving complex problems, and one of the most complex elements of many projects involves acquiring, managing and transferring land rights.
To handle this critical link in the development of infrastructure projects, Ulteig has a team of professionals who specialize in Right-of-Way (ROW) acquisition. One of those professionals is Ted Francois, who has been working in ROW for 26 years, 22 of those years with Alliant Energy, one of the largest utilities in the Midwest. For six of his years with Alliant Energy, Francois worked in wind farm development. When he left Alliant two years ago to join Ulteig, Francois was managing all real estate and ROW for Alliant in three states.
Land is Under Everything
When the average person drives on a highway or sees transmission lines crossing the landscape, it’s safe to say, that we take for granted the process of obtaining the land rights for those projects.
“I often say to my colleagues: ‘Remember, under everything is the land.’” Francois said. “Whatever project we’re working on, it probably requires obtaining or updating land rights.”
For Ulteig’s ROW Team, the majority of work involves managing land rights for power or transportation projects. This means having someone from the ROW Team going out, meeting with landowners, and buying the rights – for instance, to expand a highway from two lanes to four lanes, or to build a wind farm or a solar power project.
One of the complexities with which the Ulteig ROW Team handles is the unique, state-by-state requirements for negotiation and buying land rights. “This is a hallmark of our team,” said Francois, “we’re very knowledgeable about all of the variations in land rights from state to state.”
Doing the Legwork
In the early stages of a new project, the Ulteig ROW Team researches existing rights that have been filed at the local courthouse. The firm’s engineering team identifies additional rights that will be needed for the project to proceed forward, and that’s when the ROW Team contacts landowners to begin the process of negotiating land rights. The ROW Team then works with our engineering team to identify solutions where landowners will cooperate.
Additional services provided by Ulteig’s ROW Team include relocation when needed and crop or property damage settlements after construction of the project. There are some projects where the ROW Team will work closely with an appraiser to determine proper compensation.
While the majority of the Ulteig ROW Team’s work is focused on transportation and power transmission, the team supports all Lifeline Sectors, including land rights needed for renewable projects (wind, solar, battery storage) and water system projects.
As you might imagine, Francois has seen a lot of change over the years. One of the biggest changes is the role that technology now plays in ROW.
“We can do so much more, so much more efficiently,” said Francois. “For example, rather than having a paper map and keeping handwritten notes or spreadsheets that you’re marking, we can save a considerable amount of time and effort using technology, such as GIS.”
As a one-stop shop, the ROW Team combines its deep knowledge of ROW combined with the latest technology to support Ulteig’s clients. “Once we’re in the door, our clients love us,” said Francois. “Having worked on the client side for many years, I understand what our clients need in terms of ROW support and the value of working closely with internal teams to help them achieve their goals.”
At Ulteig, we want to thank Ted Francois and all of our ROW professionals. National Right-of-Way Professionals Week is an opportunity to not only educate the industry about the critical importance of ROW professionals, but also a moment when we should recognize the incredible value that ROW professionals bring to building North America’s infrastructure. To learn more about Ulteig’s ROW capabilities, click here.