The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff on March 22 recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission grant an HVTL route permit to Minnkota Power Cooperative for the MPL-Laporte 115-kV project as proposed (yellow route).
As noted in the filing, Minnkota Power Cooperative last June filed a route permit application in relation to its proposal to build about 9.4 miles of new 115-kV transmission line and a new 115/4.16-kV 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.
EERA added that the line’s 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. The line, EERA added, 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, 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. EERA added that the line then turns south, crossing County Road 95, and entering the new substation site in Section 17 of Township 143N, Range 35W.
The filing noted that EERA staff in January published an environmental assessment (EA) regarding the project.
Seven individuals providing verbal comments at a public hearing that was held last month. EERA added that 16 written comments, including two agency comments, were received during the public hearing comment period, and that the company on March 13 provided proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) stated a preference for the proposed route (referred to as the yellow route) since it believes that that route minimizes disturbance to a Minnesota Biological Survey site of high biodiversity significance, follows road ROW or current power lines, crosses the trout stream where it can be spanned without structures in the water, and avoids Itasca State Park property.
EERA staff added that while it generally concurs with the MNDNR’s overall assessment, it noted that there are several points that need clarification, including that there are no state parks, state forests, scientific and natural areas (SNA), wildlife management areas (WMA), county parks, or federal forests or refuges within the anticipated alignment for any of the routing options. In fact, EERA said, anywhere that one of the routing options borders a state park or state forest, the route width was shifted so that those lands were outside of the route boundaries.
Among other things, EERA noted that one commenter provided six alternative routes for consideration, with the commenter’s preference being to follow the existing MPL pipeline corridor.
EERA said, for instance, that while the proposed route (yellow route) width along 115th Avenue does extend eastward from the road about 150 feet, encompassing a portion of the adjacent private property, the anticipated alignment would be placed about five feet outside the eastern edge of the existing road ROW. That would limit the encroachment of the HVTL ROW to about 55 feet of private property along that segment of the route; potential for displacement was consequently determined to be negligible, EERA said.
Also, construction activities that generate noise, dust, or disturbance of habitat may result in short-term, indirect impacts on wildlife, EERA said, adding that during project construction, wildlife would generally be displaced within the anticipated ROW. Those impacts, EERA added, are expected to be short-term and localized, and common species habituated to human presence may continue to use habitats adjacent to the ROW during construction.