Voices raised and tempers flared Tuesday during a public hearing on the proposed construction of a 345-kilovolt transmission line across the heart of Jackson County.
The evening hearing in Jackson was the second in a series of four scheduled this week, all of which were presided over by James LaFave, administrative law judge with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. It is LaFave who is tasked with issuing a recommendation on the need for the project and the route of the line to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which renders the final decision on if and where the line is constructed.
Close to a dozen members of the public addressed the judge Tuesday, with the majority expressing some concern with one or more of the proposed routes. Between 15 and 20 miles of the 75-mile line would run across Jackson County. Two primary routes have been proposed – both north of Interstate 90 – along with a handful of variations within those routes.
Kent and Deb Ringkob of rural Jackson spoke in favor of a modified version of the southern route and in strong opposition to the northern route. Deb Ringkob said the northern route would negatively affect too many homes and families.
“It would really impact my family and lots of families in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s too close to too many homes.”
She also said she worried what a line so close would do to her property value.
“It wouldn’t only impact my husband and myself, but our children and grandchildren,” she said, adding, “Would you like to have a powerline next to your house?”
Kent Ringkob said while the southern route generally would run along quarter-section lines and largely avoid most people’s homes, the northern route tends to cut fields in half.
“It comes very close to our house and cuts across our farm,” he said. “It goes right through the middle of the field.”
Mike Buresch, who lives and farms near Lakefield, joined the Ringkobs in opposition to the northern route, telling the judge it “is totally unacceptable because it runs right through our headquarters farm.
“It would be a real pain for us,” he added.
The southern route, Buresch said, generally runs lines along property boundaries and is by far the more acceptable of the two.
Larry Christopher, who lives due north of Jackson, said he doesn’t think much of either route and questioned why the Jackson Municipal Airport should get preferential treatment over landowners in avoiding the line.
“My land is greatly affected by all the routes proposed,” he said. “I say reject all routes presently submitted.”
Lakefield native Jordan Burmeister, an official with Geronimo Energy’s proposed O’Dell Wind Farm, spoke in favor of the line, as did Aaron Backman, executive director of the Windom Economic Development Authority.
“We have projects planned and proposed that depend on this line,” Burmeister said, adding the O’Dell Wind Farm is expected to infuse around $50 million into the area economy over the next 20 years. He also said he does hope the selected route is one acceptable for landowners.
The most animated comments of the evening came from a pair of Martin County residents, Bradley Skerik and Mark Lange, both of rural Sherburn. While Lange questioned applicant ITC Midwest’s dealings with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and why running the line through state wetlands would not be preferable to running it through private property, Skerik raised property value and health concerns associated with the possibility the line could run within 100 feet of his home.
“Aside from destroying the value of my property – what little I have – I’m not too keen on brain cancer,” he said.
Written public comments on the proposed line will continue to be accepted through 4 p.m. on May 30.
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