New powerline corridor would cut through the lakes area
The virtual open house, where residents are asked for feedback, is available online through Friday, May 12, but there will be additional options for public feedback.
BRAINERD — Two power companies plan to build a transmission line through central Minnesota covering about 180 miles.
Minnesota Power and Great River Energy are the entities behind the project, called the Northland Reliability Project.
“To maintain a continuous supply of safe and reliable electricity, Minnesota Power and Great River Energy are investing in our transmission infrastructure to enhance the stability of the regional electric system and support a reliable, resilient and flexible grid as energy resources continue to evolve,” the companies state in a virtual open house about the project.
The virtual open house, where residents are asked for feedback, is available online through Friday, May 12, at bit.ly/42uQwAR with details about the right-of-way, a map of the project and ability to comment.
The plan calls for a double-circuit 345-kilovolt transmission line from a spot near Grand Rapids through the lakes region down to a spot near Becker. The project was approved by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO, the regional grid operator, last July, but some landowners reported hearing about it affecting their properties only recently.
The Northland Reliability Project hosted two-hour in-person meetings across area cities starting in October of 2022, including sessions in January and February of 2023 and most recently during the first week of May. But that is just the beginning of the public engagement process.
“We'll undertake a robust stakeholder process as we prepare to apply for a Certificate of Need and Route Permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission,” the project notes in the virtual open house. “Please note the schedule is subject to change.”
The project’s timeline includes information on routing, public engagement and permitting in 2023, with more work on permitting, engineering, environmental surveys and real estate and public engagement from 2024 to 2026 with construction estimated for 2027-2030. The project timeline projects the line could be in-service in 2030. But work before 2027 could include tree clearing, surveying and soil studies. Other studies typically look at wildlife and archaeology, wetlands and streams.
About the project
The Northland Reliability Project reports it consists of two major segments, one that is right in the lakes region with a new substation in Riverton. The first segment, covering about 140 miles, for the line runs from the Iron Range Substation, east of Grand Rapids, to Riverton and then continues almost directly south going to the eastside of Pierz on the way to the Benton County substation.
The second segment would replace two existing transmission lines on the east side of St. Cloud down to the Big Oaks Substation, which will be built as part of a separate project titled Alexandria to Big Oaks. The Big Oaks substation is just west of Big Lake.
Riverton looks to play a significant part with the new substation at the existing one or nearby and then a plan to “reconfigure existing transmission lines in the Riverton area.”
Minnesota Power and Great River Energy state the project is needed to “support continued reliable electric service in northern and central Minnesota, as well as the greater Upper Midwest."
The companies report the project will:
- “Provide support to the energy grid as more renewable energy is brought online and coal operations cease at existing power plants.”
- “Increase capacity to deliver more clean energy” from producers to consumers.
- Improve the ability to handle “more frequent extreme weather events.”
- Enable “transfer of many types of power generation from many locaitons to meet the long-term needs of our customers and members.”
“The state of Minnesota has statutes and rules that guide the route selection process and help minimize a project’s impact to human settlement and the environment. Input from you, local leaders and agencies as well as our own expertise is critical as we develop and finalize a route,” the project states in the virtual open house. “Earlier this year, we worked with the community to help define the route corridor. Currently, we’re working to further define the preliminary route in order to identify the proposed route, which will be used to apply for the Certificate of Need and Route Permit late this summer.
“Please note that at each point during this process, and even after we submit permits to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, there will be opportunities for public input.”
The virtual open house and the website include the earlier steps to study the area and define a route corridor. The project is currently defining a preliminary route, after reporting it gathered input from the first phase of open houses and online.
“We narrowed the route further to define a preliminary route,” the project stated. “We are again gathering public input around this preliminary route in order to identify our proposed route, used for permitting.”
The next step, step 4 in the project’s timeline, is to identify the proposed route.
The virtual open house has an interactive map where people can input an address or see the proposed route with more specifics. The proposed route dropping south from Riverton takes a jog to the east to move around Upper South Long Lake before reconnecting with a route that parallels Highway 23 to the south. It continues on that path to the south as it goes by Lastrup.
And for residents, the next piece is where the project hits home as the power companies seek right-of-way to install and then maintain the service line and clearing a path for the project. The power poles are described as 120-180 feet high. The single poles would have three rows of arms on both sides. The companies state they anticipate four to five poles, which they call pole structures, for each mile of line. An easement would allow the companies to build and maintain their property on an individual’s property. The individual retains ownership and is paid for the easement, which will restrict the owner’s use of the property used for the right-of-right. Landowners who are in the path can expect individual meetings to talk about right-of-way needs. The project states the width needed for the line is about 150 feet, but it could share — about 30-40 feet — of right-of-way with an existing line.
The virtual meeting also provides an opportunity to send a comment, request a meeting, an option to join a mailing list or comment on the map with the proposed route. To comment via email go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 218-864-6059 or go online to https://northlandreliabilityproject.com/
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.