NEW ULM – County officials said Tuesday that they are keeping track of a proposed high voltage transmission line that might come through part of Brown County.
A report from the Planning and Zoning Office raised some discussion about the possibility of such a power line coming through the county.
Brown County was recently contacted by Outland Renewable Energy, which gave officials early notice of the possibility of the line could run through part of the county. A route has not been selected yet.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Laine Sletta said Outland Energy hasn’t yet decided the voltage for the line.
Commissioner Dennis Potter said he had a conversation with an Outland representative at a meeting in Slayton and learned that it has four possible routes in mind for the line. One of those lines includes some of the DM&E property near U.S. Hwy. 14. Potter hopes to have more information on the project after meetings with Outland officials in the spring.
Chairman Andrew Lochner said he received a call from a constituent, who was concerned about static electricity generated by the line.
Potter said Outland will be holding meetings in the area this spring and that he plans to attend one of them.
By law, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has authority over high-voltage transmission lines that are over 100 kilovolts.
Outland could go through MnPUC’s Alternative Permitting Process if its application meets the commission’s guidelines. Then the application could go through a county conditional use permit.
A memo sent by Sletta to commissioners on Feb. 14 said that the MnPUC has not received an application from Outland Energy.
Outland Energy is based in Chaska and develops, owns and operates energy facilities throughout the U.S. One of its projects is Summit Wind near Jeffers.
According to the letter sent to the county, Outland would fund and own the line in conjunction with its wind and other renewable energy generation projects. It aims to have at least 1,500 megawatts of wind energy and the line operational by 2012.
Outland wants the line, which will be named the Minnesota Independence Line, to move its electricity from the Buffalo Ridge area into the Twin Cities, which has a transmission grid more capable of carrying large amounts of wind energy.
The board approved a $5,400 engineering agreement with Erickson Engineering Company, which will inspect and evaluate the CSAH 8 bridge over the Minnesota River.
Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said the state has inspected the bridge every five years and found serious problems with the parts of it above and beneath the water. A diver found more than two feet missing from concrete pier footings, Stevens said.
Stevens said he doesn’t have enough expertise to decide whether he should close the bridge or not. He sought proposals from two consulting services that have previously worked for Brown County. Both companies proposed to make inspections of the bridge and to give it a new load rating.
After that assessment is finished, the board will decide whether or not to close the bridge.
Stevens said local money must fund any repairs made to the bridge because County State Aid Highway funding cannot be used.
Lochner wants residents to be aware of what the county is considering.
He said the county would have to redesignate the road if the bridge closed because the state does not want CSAHs on dead-ends. He mentioned that it would be illegal to take a fire truck across the bridge.
In other action, the board:
• Approved a resolution from the Association for Minnesota Counties supporting additional funding for transportation.
Stevens said the AMC resolution is similar to resolutions that have come across the county board’s table in the past.
• Appointed Lt. Mike Mathiowetz as Jail Administrator, following the retirement of Capt. Paul Wieland in April.
By Kurt Nesbitt
Journal Staff Writer
20 February 2008