NEW ULM – Eden Township residents aired concerns about the CapX2020 transmission line project with Brown County commissioners and Great River Energy representatives Tuesday afternoon.
The 240-mile, $700 million, 345-kilovolt project with poles every 1,000 feet from Brookings County, S.D. to Hampton, Minn., will transmit wind power and help ensure electrical reliability into the future, according to Great River Energy (GRE) Project Communications Coordinator Randy Fordice.
A consulting firm sent mailings about power line routes to property owners during 2007-2009 public notice periods, Fordice said.
Fordice said 47 alternate routes were proposed in 2009 and environmental impact statements were drafted.
“An Administrative Law Judge landed on the route before you and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MnPUC) approved most of the routes,” said GRE Land Rights Senior Field Representative Dan Lesher.
“We tried to solicit public comment as much as we could over the past few years,” Lesher said. “We’re still working with Sibley County on Minnesota River crossing easements.”
Commissioner Andy Lochner said the project route goes through a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Sibley County.
Lesher said GRE has been asked for (project) route changes in Brown, Scott and Dakota counties.
“There is a process to taking route changes back to MnPUC which approved most routes in July,” Lesher added. “It’s unusual but not impossible. … This has been a very difficult process. Farmers say stay off fields and go near roads. Rural homeowners say stay off roads and use fields. We try to stay on property divisions. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle.”
Lesher said the state energy commission notified property owners about the power line routes, but that letters are often thrown away because recipients think they are junk mail.
Power lines would form corners on the south and east side of Allen T. Mathiowetz’ Section 7 farm site and at the Randy Schroeder site in Section 5 according to a letter signed by township residents.
Mathiowetz said the route was changed, and he didn’t know about it until after approval by MnPUC.
“I got a mailing last month that was very vague. I was told to check on a computer. I don’t have one,” said Mathiowetz.
“Being surrounded by power lines is more than just bad aesthetics,” the township residents’ letter read. “We live in an area not served by DSL and need line of sight signal to get Internet. Carol Schroeder, a quadriplegic due to MS, needs high-speed home Internet service to do her job.”
Other concerns are that the line would pass through, not on the edge of Section 32 farm fields.
“We are concerned about health risks, radio and TV reception interference, loss of farm land, inability to do aerial crop spraying, property value losses and farming nuisances caused by large towers. … We don’t want this power line on any of our land,” read a June letter to MnPUC, signed by 38 landowners.
Erosion concern was voiced at the meeting.
Lesher said GRE would use mitigation to help hold soil in place around power poles.
“Who wants to [deal with these power lines] for the rest of their life?” asked Milo Christensen. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. The route has to be changed by asking MnPUC to have CapX reconsider it. We want a letter from the county asking MnPUC to reconsider the route. We have another plan. Mr. Lesher knows what it is.”
Commissioners approved a resolution to draft a letter asking MnPUC to reconsider the project’s Eden Township route.
“We want to be on the same page. Timing is crucial.” said Commissioner Richard Seeboth.”
Brown County Attorney Robert Hinnenthal said the issue is under Minnesota Statute 216b.27.
“…You can request a re-hearing and if that doesn’t work, you can go to the Court of Appeals,” Hinnenthal said. “I think it’s important you consider (legal) help on this. … It’s important you preserve your rights. The process doesn’t guarantee anything.”
“We’re sleeping on the edge of our beds now,” said Christensen.
Seeboth asked commissioners to approve a letter of support for project representatives to meet with landowners to find a better route.
“I was caught unaware (of the route change) myself,” said Commissioner Andy Lochner.
Commissioners unanimously approved a letter supporting the MnPUC request.
Seeboth thanked Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-St. James, for attending the meeting. He said a letter from Torkelson’s office to MnPUC supporting the request would be in order.
For more information, visit www.puc.state.mn.us and search for docket 06-1115 or call 1-800-657-3782.
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