Minnesota Dept. of Commerce releases scope of North Rochester-Chester line

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Facility Permitting (EFP) has released the scoping decision for CapX-2020’s proposed North Rochester to Chester 161-kV transmission line project.

The line is one of three components of the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse 345-kV transmission line project, and scoping is the first step in the process after application acceptance.

The scoping decision includes the notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA). In addition, it identifies the issues and alternative route segments determined to be appropriate for inclusion in the EA and identifies certain issues that will not be included in the EA.

The scoping decision identifies approximately 70 issues in seven general categories that will be addressed in the EA. The categories include a general description of the project; the regulatory framework; engineering design and operation, construction; affected environment, potential impacts, and mitigation measures; alternative routes to be evaluated; and identification of permits.

During the public comment period that ended Dec. 8, a number of issues were identified for inclusion in the scope of the EA, including transmission line effects on public health and safety, land use, property values, erosion, and historic resources.

Members of the public also requested the EA examine potential interference with electronic equipment used in farming operations, the transmission line right-of-way and route width, existing road and utility rights-of-way, and the potential for undergrounding sections of the transmission line.

The scoping decision also lists five issues that are outside the scope of the EA. These are a “no-build” alternative; issues related to project need, size, type, or timing; any route or substation alternatives not specifically identified in this scoping decision document; policy issues surrounding whether utilities or local government should be liable for the cost to relocate utility poles when roadways are widened; and the manner in which land owners are paid for transmission rights-of-way easements.

The EA is anticipated to be complete and available in March 2012.