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OTHER OPINION: Power lines have to go somewhere

When we flip a switch, we expect lights to come on. When it’s hot outside, we count on our air conditioning systems to keep us cool inside. We want to be able to drink tap water without boiling it first. When we flush a toilet — well, out of sight, out of mind.

But no one wants to walk onto their deck on a summer morning and see a water treatment plant being built. And, based on the battles that are being fought in southeastern Minnesota, a lot of people feel the same way about wind turbines, sand mines and high-voltage power lines.

Not in my backyard.

The problem, of course, is that densely populated areas need more energy and use more water, but lack out-of-the-way places in which to “hide” utilities infrastructure. At some point, the public good will likely require something to be built in someone’s backyard.

That’s where we’re at with CapX2020, a $1.9 billion endeavor that will include a 150-mile high-voltage transmission line through Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties, with two small lines branching off to substations east and west of Rochester.

This project, in the works since 2007, is all-but-certain to gain final approval during the next four to six months. Sometime before Thanksgiving, some landowners will learn that they are going to have a very clear, up-close view of a high-voltage power line.

The massive towers are unsightly, and some people will lose the use of some land, but there are bigger concerns. Since 1979, researchers around the world have debated the possible effects of high-voltage lines on the health of those who live nearby, and there is at least some evidence suggesting a link to childhood leukemia.

Those concerns are easy to dismiss — until it’s your children who are playing within 100 yards of a transmission line.

We’re not going to express a preference of one route over another for CapX2020. Logically, the obvious choice would be to one that affects the fewest homeowners, but with a project of this scale, a lot of variables come into play.

All we can really hope for is that when the route is selected, all affected landowners will be compensated fairly, and every effort must be made to minimize the lines’ direct impact on their lives.