The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA), in a Jan. 20 notice, announced the release of the environmental assessment (EA) for Minnkota Power Coperative Inc.’s proposed MP 16 Line Relocation Project.
A public hearing on the matter will be noticed separately, the department said.
According to the EA, Minnkota last June filed an application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a route permit to build about 9.4 miles of new 115-kV overhead electric transmission line, as well as a 115-kV/4.16-kV distribution substation in Clearwater and Hubbard counties, west of the city of Laporte, Minn., (the proposed MPL-Laporte 115-kV project).
The project’s length varies somewhat by route alternative, but is about nine miles long, the EA said.
The proposed project is intended to provide electric service for a proposed pipeline pump station (Laporte station), which is part of the Minnesota Pipeline Company’s MPL Reliability Project.
Minnkota, the EA added, proposes to supply power to the MPL Laporte station by building the new 115/4.16-kV substation adjacent to the proposed pump station and a new overhead 115-kV transmission line connecting via 3-way switch to an existing 115-kV line.
Minnkota’s proposed route originates in Section 12 of Township 144N, Range 36W in Itasca Township. The proposed high voltage transmission line (HVTL) 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. The EA also said that the HVTL then turns east and southeast and cuts cross-country until it reaches State Highway 200. The HVTL continues southeast adjacent to State Highway 200 and crosses the county line.
The EA also said that just after entering Hubbard County, the line turns east and is located adjacent to 400th Street for about 1.7 miles. The HVTL 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.
The EA also noted that the HVTL then turns south, crossing County Road 95 and entering the new substation site in Section 17 of Township 143N, Range 35W.
Minnkota requests a route width of ranging from 150 to 450 feet and 400 to 810 feet at the interconnection and substation sites, respectively. The EA also noted that Minnkota plans to acquire a 100-foot permanent easement or ROWs, extending 50 feet on each side of the transmission line’s anticipated alignment within the route.
For most of the route, the 115-kV HVTL would be carried on single pole, wood or steel poles with horizontal post or horizontal brace insulators and a single shield wire, the EA said, adding that the structures would have a range in height between 80 and 110 feet with spans ranging from 300 to 1,300 feet between structures. Where it is necessary to cross/span wetlands, guyed three-pole with cross-arm structures may be used, the EA said.
Construction of the proposed project is expected to begin in 1Q17, and Minnkota anticipates a 4Q17 in-service date for the proposed facilities, the EA said.
For the project as proposed, Minnkota estimates that the HVTL facilities would cost about $5.1m; the new substation would cost about $2.1m, the EA said.
Discussing the environmental setting, the EA noted that the proposed project area is located within the Minnesota Drift and Lake Plains (MDL) Section of the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province. The proposed project straddles two subsections of the Minnesota Drift and Lake Plains Section, the Chippewa Plains and the Pine Moraines and Outwash Plains. The EA also noted that currently, land uses within the overall area are farming, tourism and outdoor recreation, while the open areas along the routes evaluated comprise mostly cultivated and grazing areas, with some wetlands and shrub land.
All of the routes evaluated follow existing infrastructure for most of their length, and by so doing, those routing options place new HVTL where there is already existing linear infrastructure, in an attempt to minimize the visual disruption from the addition of new HVTLs in the project area. The EA added that the new substation would be sited adjacent to the new MPL Laporte pump station.
For some of the portions of the project that run parallel to 281st Avenue, 400th Street, 115th Avenue, and County Road 95, the new HVTL would share ROW with existing Clearwater-Polk Electric Cooperative low-voltage distribution lines, which may reduce the viewer’s perception of the new visual element, the EA said.
Aesthetic impacts due to the construction and operation of the new 115-kV HVTL in the project area are anticipated to be moderate, the EA said, adding that such impacts can be minimized by, for instance, maximizing, to the extent practical, sharing/paralleling existing linear infrastructure ROWs.
The EA also noted that the construction and operation of the HVTL is not anticipated to impact or alter cultural values within Clearwater or Hubbard counties; impacts to cultural values due to the construction and operation of the new 115-kV HVTL in the project area are anticipated to be minimal. The transmission line would not impact the work and leisure permits of residents or geographic features in such a way as to impact the underlying culture of the project area, the EA said.
A review of aerial imagery indicates that no homes or structures are within the anticipated ROW of any routing options, the EA said, adding that there are several residences located in the vicinity of the proposed route and the alternative routes.
Direct impacts to land use and zoning due to the construction and operation of the new HVTL are anticipated to be minimal, the EA said, noting that while the impact will be long-term, the transmission line is of a relative small size and each routing option parallels existing infrastructure for most of the length. The new transmission line would not significantly obstruct or alter current farming practices in any of the anticipated ROWs. The EA also said that while removal of trees from the ROW would preclude future timber harvest, that impact would be limited.
Among other things, the EA said that construction of the proposed project may result in long-term adverse impacts on wildlife from the loss or conversion of habitat and habitat fragmentation. Noting that Minnkota would permanently clear woody vegetation within the anticipated ROW by either widening existing ROWs or creating new ROWs through existing forests and shrub lands, the EA said that wildlife species previously occupying forested communities in the ROW would be displaced in favor of species that prefer more open vegetation communities.
Operation of the proposed project may result in long-term impacts on wildlife, including the potential risk of avian collisions with transmission conductors and equipment. Discussing mitigation measures, the EA said, for instance, that Minnkota has stated that HVTL structures would not be placed in LaSalle Creek or within a 50-foot buffer of the creek.
Of rare and unique natural resources, the EA noted that within Clearwater and Hubbard counties, the gray wolf and the northern long-eared bat are known to occur.
The proposed project, regardless of routing option selected, may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect certain federal and state-listed species or significant habitats, the EA said.
According to the EA, the proposed route ranked the best among route options when comparing certain “routing factors,” in that it had the most instances of:
- Impacts being anticipated to be minimal with the application of best management practices and general route permit conditions, or
- Route option is consistent with routing factor
The routing factors involve the effects on:
- Human settlement, including aesthetics, cultural values, recreation, and public services;
- Archaeological and historic resources
- The natural environment, including effects on air and water quality resources and vegetation and wildlife
- Use or paralleling of existing ROW, survey lines, natural divisions lines, and agricultural field boundaries
The EA also noted that a decision on the route permit for the proposed project is anticipated in early 2017.