Minnesota regulators grant approval for 115-kV line proposed by Great River Energy

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, in a March 11 order, issued a high-voltage transmission line route permit, identifying a specific route and permit conditions, to Great River Energy (GRE) for the Bull Moose Project, which is a 2.5-mile, 115-kV transmission line in Cass County, Minn., near the City of Backus in Bull Moose Township.

As noted in the order, GRE in August 2015 filed an application for a route permit for the project, which is designed to serve the Backus pump station that is part of Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership’s proposed Line 3 pipeline project.

As TransmissionHub reported, Enbridge in April 2015 filed a certificate of need application to replace the company’s existing Line 3 pipeline with a new pipeline of about 337 miles, extending from the North Dakota-Minnesota border to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border (the Line 3 Replacement Project). On the same day, the commission added in an August 2016 order, Enbridge filed a route permit application for the project. The company stated that under its proposal, the existing Line 3 pipeline would be taken out of service and removed.

As noted in the March 11 commission order, GRE requested four revisions to the commission’s generic route permit template, including that the permittee is to “fairly restore or compensate landowners for damage to crops, fences, private roads, and lanes…” and that within “90 days after completion of construction, the permittee shall submit copies of all final as-built plans and specifications developed during the project.”

The commission said that it will approve GRE’s proposed revisions, along with the special conditions recommended by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) and included in the proposed permit attached to staff briefing papers for a Jan. 24 hearing, as modified.

For instance, the permittee is to obtain an updated list of known maternity roosts for the northern long-eared bat prior to project construction in accordance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rules. The commission added that based on a review of that information, the permittee is to remove the trees in accordance with those rules pertaining to the northern long-eared bat and when required by those rules, contact the USFWS to obtain the necessary permits.

Also, tree removal required by the project is to be done between Sept. 1 and April 30 to mitigate negative impacts to the northern long-eared bat and to minimize potential impacts on migratory birds, unless other appropriate time limitations on tree clearing are determined in consultation with the USFWS.

The commission also said that it agrees with EERA and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that GRE’s proposed route as modified by “Alternative Route Segment A” is the most appropriate route for the project, and that it will issue the route permit to GRE for its proposed route, as modified by Alternative Route Segment A and a November 2018 letter, in which GRE requested certain minor route adjustments. Alternative Route Segment A minimizes forest and wetland impacts and follows more existing transmission line right of way, the commission said, adding that it also finds that the minor route adjustments requested in the November 2018 letter are reasonable.

As noted in the filing, Alternative Route Segment A was proposed by the DNR, which is the landowner over which Alternative Segment A would cross over. Alternative Route Segment A follows existing electric transmission infrastructure for its entire length by eliminating the approximately one-quarter mile cross-country portion of the proposed route, the filing noted. DNR indicated that that alternative would keep a wetland/pond complex from being surrounded within a triangle of utility lines. The filing also said that Alternative Route Segment A will reduce impacts to a Northern Mesic Hardwood Forest by about four acres and decrease the impacts to wildlife from the loss of forest habitat.

Discussing project costs, the filing noted that total project costs are estimated to be about $2.2m for Alternative Route Segment A.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com.