Sparks fly over power line project

BY JORDAN LANGER

jordan.langer@ecm-inc.com

Health and safety concerns and a potential decrease in property values were the primary concerns residents have raised with the Hollydale 115 kilovolt transmission line project proposed by Xcel Energy and Great River Energy.

The project, which has been in the preliminary planning stages for the past year, involves upgrading an existing overhead transmission line from 69 kilovolts to 115, constructing an additional eight-tenths of a mile of new overhead transmission line, constructing a new substation and modifying associated transmission facilities in the cities of Medina and Plymouth.

The transmission line that is currently owned by Great River but would be purchased by Xcel extends from the existing Medina Substation located southwest of the intersection of Willow Drive and County Road 24 to just north of Fernbrook Lane in Plymouth. The applicants are requesting access to a 200-foot wide corridor where the transmission line is to be rebuilt.

The eight-tenths of a mile of new transmission line would run from the intersection of the existing Great River transmission line and follow along the north side of the Canadian Pacific Railway east to Cheshire Lane, then south along Cheshire Lane, and east along Schmidt Lake Road to the proposed site of the new Pomerleau Lake substation.

A 400-foot route width is being requested so Xcel can, "move the line as necessary in case there is existing utilities or other things that may be in the way," explained Xcel Energy’s Permitting Analyst RaeLynn Asah during the public meeting. The new portion of the line would have a 75-foot right-of way and the existing line would have a 70-foot right-of way.

The impetus for the project is the need for additional power sourcing into the system because the current distribution system is taxed, said Asah.

Before construction begins on the $23 million dollar project, which Xcel Energy anticipates will occur at the end of 2013, a long permitting and review process must be completed.

The two public information meetings June 7 and 8 not only served as a forum for residents to learn about the project but also was an opportunity for them to provide their suggestions and voice concerns.

Those suggestions will then be considered when the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Facility Permitting staff creates the Environmental Impact Statement. The document, which will be released later this summer, will analyze all aspects of the proposed route and the 14 alternative routes.

CITIZEN’S CONCERNS

During a three-hour session June 7 at Wayzata High School, a phalanx of residents spoke before representatives from Xcel Energy, Minnesota Department of Commerce and Great River primarily about their qualms with electromagnetic fields.

Research is inconclusive regarding the health effects of the fields, produced by the movement of electrically charged objects, according to the World Health Organization.

Lowell Turner, 86, lives 20-feet from the proposed line and said he worries about how the lines could affect his pacemaker. Eugene Kotz, Senior project manager with Xcel, said he has no concern that the project will affect pacemakers.

"We build 69 to 115 kV line conversions all over the city and we have never had issues with your concerns," he said.

Plymouth resident Paul Ablack also expressed concerns with the potential health issues.

"Who owns the liability if a year after the line is put in, all of a sudden we find out that EMF is in fact harmful and is cancer-causing?" he wondered.

In response to the barrage of comments regarding health concerns, State Permit Manager with the Department of Commerce Scott Ek said the issue would be investigated in the environmental hearing process.

Burying the transmission lines – a practice that is common in other areas of the country – could eliminate the exposure to emissions as well as having other benefits, said Plymouth resident Deb Stage.

"I’m confused why this option hasn’t come up," she said. "Minnesota has been ahead in health care, quality of life and education. I don’t understand why we are kind of behind on this."

Once again Ek said the environmental assessment process would evaluate burying the transmission lines, including the feasibility, cost, health impacts and reliability.

Many residents, Tom Kubinski being one of them, raised concern with the decrease in property values that would occur if the higher voltage line were installed.

"Had I known that this power line was going to be upgraded, I would have never bought the home," said Kubinksi.

As a way to mitigate the number of homes and people affected by the high voltage transmission line, several residents said they support Route E.

That corridor received the blessing of the Plymouth City Council last winter. It follows Highway 55 to Interstate 494. The total length of the route is approximately 4.2 miles.

Plymouth resident Tami Carpenter contended that the reason Xcel Energy supports another route is because they would see an $800,000 cost savings.

Kotz, Project Manager with Xcel said the reason why they chose the proposed route was because of the existing corridor and it’s the "best use of land in our opinion."

All of the logistics with the different routes will be vetted in the impact statement. Once complete, another round of public meetings will take place later this year.

To learn more about the project, visit xr.com/project.

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