The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, in an order issued on June 21, said that it adopts an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) findings of fact and conclusions concerning the MPL-Laporte 115-kV Transmission Line project, and issues a route permit to Minnkota Power Cooperative for the project’s preferred route.
As noted in the order, Minnkota Power in June 2016 filed an application for a route permit to build and operate the 9.4-mile transmission line in Clearwater and Hubbard counties. The project is planned to link an existing Minnesota Pipe Line (MPL) Company pumping station and a newly proposed substation to serve a new pumping station located west of the city of Laporte, the commission said.
The commission noted that in February, the ALJ presided at a public hearing in the matter, and that 16 members of the public attended, with eight of them speaking at the hearing. One person, who had suggested six alternative routes during the scoping process, recommended use of the “Seeger 2 alternative route,” the commission said.
Before the comments period closed in March, 14 members of the public submitted written comments, which noted concerns about property impacts, aesthetics, noise, electromagnetic fields, as well as impacts on possible additional cultural resources and plant resources, the commission said.
The ALJ filed a report in April, recommending that the commission issue a route permit to Minnkota Power for either the proposed route or the Seeger 2 Route because those two routes best satisfy the route permit factors, the commission said.
As TransmissionHub reported, the ALJ’s April report said that Minnkota proposes to supply power to the MPL Laporte Station by construction of a new substation adjacent to the proposed pump station and a new overhead 115-kV transmission line connecting via three-way switch to an existing 115-kV line.
Minnkota’s proposed route for the HVTL begins in Itasca Township, 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 proposed route then turns east and southeast, cutting cross-country, until it reaches State Highway 200, the report added.
The HVTL continues southeast adjacent to State Highway 200 and crosses the county line into Hubbard County. Just after entering Hubbard County, the line turns east and is located adjacent to 400th Street for about 1.7 miles, the report added.
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 report also said that the line then turns south, crossing County Road 95 and entering the new substation site.
Minnkota’s request includes route widths ranging from 150 feet to 450 feet at the interconnection sites, and 400 feet to 810 feet at the substation site, the report said, noting that the variable route widths are meant to allow for sufficient flexibility to work with landowners and address engineering constraints.
Minnkota plans to acquire an 80-foot to 100-foot permanent easement or ROW on each side of the transmission line’s anticipated alignment, or centerline, within the route, the report said. Where the HVTL is placed cross-country on private land, an easement for the entire ROW would be acquired from affected landowners, the report said.
The HVTL would be carried on single wood or steel poles with horizontal post or horizontal brace insulators, and a single shield wire for the majority of the proposed route, the report noted. The poles are proposed to be self-supporting (unguyed), and directly embedded, the report said, adding that the structures would range in height from 80 feet to 110 feet, with a 300-foot to 350-foot span between structures.
Discussing the Seeger 2 Route, the report noted that that route follows Minnkota’s proposed route north to south, as far as the proposed route’s intersection with the MPL pipeline corridor. At that point, the Seeger 2 Route follows the MPL pipeline corridor south to the project ending, the report said.
In its order issued on June 21, the commission noted that Minnkota Power in May filed exceptions to the ALJ report, arguing that the proposed route is superior to the Seeger 2 Route Alternative.
The commission also noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) filed comments, indicating its preference for the proposed route because the route minimizes disturbances to a Minnesota Biological Survey site of high biodiversity significance – a trout stream, the commission said. The DNR noted that the preferred route follows road ROW or current power lines, crosses the affected trout stream where it can be spanned without structures in the water, and avoids Itasca State park property, the commission said.
The Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) filed comments in May and proposed that several changes be made to the ALJ report to clarify certain of the findings, the commission noted, adding that the EERA also proposed three new findings in the “Noise” section of the ALJ Report to clarify the expected noise levels caused by the new substation, and four new findings in the “Cumulative Potential Effects” section to describe the MPL – Line 4 project, which is a related project.
“Having closely reviewed the ALJ report and the comments of the parties, the commission agrees with the EERA that the proposed route (yellow route) of the applicant is the most feasible route for this project among the eight routes evaluated in the environmental assessment,” the commission said. “While the Seeger 2 Route alternative was also recommended by the ALJ, the commission is persuaded by the conclusions reached in Section 7 of the environmental assessment (Comparative Analysis of Route Alternatives), which analyzed the relative merits of all the route alternatives with respect to the routing factors found in Minnesota Rules, part 7850.4100. … [T]he commission agrees that the proposed route has the least impact on the natural and human environments and can be constructed with a minimum amount of mitigation.”
The commission said that it therefore agrees with the ALJ that the preferred route satisfies certain conditions, and finds that the project is consistent with state goals to conserve resources, minimize environmental impacts, minimize human settlement and other land use conflicts, and best ensures the state’s electric energy security through efficient, cost-effective power supply and electric transmission infrastructure.
According to the route permit, the route designated by the commission in the permit notes that the new line originates in Section 12 of Township 144N, Range 36W in Itasca Township where it interconnects with Otter Tail Company’s 115-kV line, then extends west and south, adjacent to existing roadway ROW along 281st Avenue for about 3.7 miles. The HVTL then turns east and southeast and cuts cross-country until it reaches State Highway 200. Then, the route permit added, the HVTL 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 route permit also noted that 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 HVTL then turns south, crossing County Road 95 and entering the new substation site in Section 17 of Township 143N, Range 35W, according to the route permit.