The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff has recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission accept as substantially complete the route permit application filed by Minnkota Power Cooperative Inc., for the proposed MPL-Laporte 115-kV Transmission Line and Substation Project.
In June 17 comments filed with the commission, staff noted that Minnkota Power earlier in June filed the application to build about 9.4 miles of the new 115-kV transmission line and the new 115/4.16-kV distribution substation in Clearwater and Hubbard counties.
The proposed project would provide electrical service to a proposed new pumping station to be built and operated by Minnesota Pipeline Company, staff said, adding that the Minnkota Power project does not require a certificate of need by length or capacity for a large energy facility.
The route originates in Section 12 of Township 144N, Range 36W in Itasca Township. The proposed line extends west from the existing line and then south, adjacent to existing roadway right of way (ROW) along 281st Avenue for about 3.7 miles. Staff added that the line then turns east and southeast and cuts cross-country until it reaches State Highway 200. The line continues southeast adjacent to State Highway 200 and crosses the county line. Just after entering Hubbard County, staff added, the line turns east and is located adjacent to 400th Street for about 1.7 miles. The line turns south at 115th Avenue and continues south adjacent to existing roadway ROW for about two miles before turning west for about 2,350 feet adjacent to County Road 95. Staff further noted that the line then turns south, crossing County Road 95 and entering the new substation site in Section 17 of Township 143N, Range 35W.
Discussing sensitive resources, staff noted that the potential impacts to sensitive ecological resources are minimal because much of the proposed project is located within or adjacent to pipeline, road or distribution line ROW. The proposed route was selected because it minimized impacts on sensitive natural areas, minimized total required greenfield, and provided an alternative LaSalle Creek crossing location.
Staff also said that it is not aware of any disputed issues of fact with respect to the representations in the route permit application. The likelihood for significant disagreement appears minimal given the limited number of affected landowners and local governments, staff said.
As noted in Minnkota Power’s application, construction of the proposed project is expected to begin in 1Q17, and Minnkota Power anticipates a 4Q17 in-service date for the proposed facilities.
Minnkota Power also said that it estimates that the proposed project would cost about $7.2m – about $5.1m for the transmission line facilities and about $2.1m for the new substation.
Minnkota Power noted that there are several residences located in the vicinity of the proposed project: 14 residential buildings within zero to 500 feet, six residential buildings within 500 to 1,000 feet, and five residential buildings within 1,000 to 1,500 feet.
The proposed project would not require displacement of occupied residences or commercial businesses. Minnkota Power added that while it would seek to build the line consistent with any applicable zoning ordinances, no zoning, building or land use approvals would be required from surrounding municipalities if a route permit is issued for the proposed project.
Minnkota Power also addressed recreation matters, noting that a portion of the proposed route is located adjacent to, but does not cross, Itasca State Park, which is open to the public for recreational purposes. The proposed route crosses a portion of the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest, but the anticipated alignment does not cross it. Minnkota Power added that direct impacts to existing recreational opportunities are not expected to occur as the proposed route is located in an area that is adjacent to a major roadway as well as existing electrical infrastructure.
Among other things, Minnkota Power discussed rare and unique natural resources, noting, for instance, that no known hibernacula or maternity roost trees for the northern long-eared bat have been documented within one mile of the proposed project. However, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has documented that those bats are known to occur within Clearwater County. Therefore, Minnkota Power added, the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the northern long-eared bat. The USFWS has recently determined that no critical habitat would be designated for the northern long-eared bat, Minnkota Power said.