Deal done on CapX Bemidji-Grand Rapids?

Filed under:Bemidji-Grand Rapids — posted by admin on August 27, 2010 @ 9:43 am

It looks like a deal is in the works to get the CapX 2020 Bemidji-Grand Rapids transmission line through the Leech Lake Reservation:

Documents outline power line talks between Leech Lake, utility officials

Posted: 5:21 pm Thu, August 26, 2010
By Bob Geiger

A group of five utilities is negotiating with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to buy right-of-way for a 230-kilovolt power line – connecting Bemidji and Grand Rapids – across the tribe’s reservation.

Fergus Falls-based Otter Tail Power Co., the lead developer on the transmission line, is among five electric utilities named on a draft settlement agreement with the Leech Lake Band.

Finance & Commerce obtained a copy of the draft settlement from a source close to the situation. An Otter Tail Power spokeswoman earlier this week conceded that the company was in talks with the tribe, but said the talks did not represent formal negotiations.

But in addition to a draft agreement between the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe tribe and the five utilities, the papers obtained by F&C include an addendum that describes proceedings as “confidential settlement negotiations.”

The draft agreement and addendum also encourage utilities to hire tribe members to provide security and, when appropriate, purchase project materials from the tribe.

Leech Lake Reservation is a sprawling 972-square-mile reservation located in north central Minnesota.

Settlement documents prepared by the Leech Lake Band include fill-in blanks for money paid to the tribe for crossing the Leech Lake reservation; a “utility account” to defray electric service expenses of the tribe; a “wages and benefits account” to pay tribe members to work on the project; and a “land account” administered by the utilities to pay for land located on the transmission line’s final route.

Also contained is a section describing the negotiations process as a “compromise of disputes” that doesn’t represent an “admission of wrongdoing or liability on behalf of any of the parties.”

If utilities and Leech Lake officials agree, power companies would erect “H” style transmission towers across the reservation to wire more reliable power to northern Minnesota residential and commercial customers.

Receipt of the documents came toward the end of a week when a Leech Lake Band group called “Loving Mother Earth” staged protests in front of the Leech Lake Tribal Council headquarters in Cass Lake.

Members of the group expressed fear in a news release earlier this week that a settlement, supposedly for $7 million from the utilities, was imminent. Michael Bongo, secretary and treasurer for the Leech Land Band of Ojibwe, could not be reached for comment.

But work toward the project, which is part of a five-line network of transmission lines being built by an 11-utility group called CapX2020, has been proceeding.

“There’s been a lot of public outreach over four years on the project,” said Al Koeckeritz, a project manager for Otter Tail Power on what he estimated would be a 70-mile transmission line costing between $60 million and $100 million.

Still, concerns remain among tribe members about their proximity to the line, Koeckeritz said. Other concerns included impact on property values and health effects of the line, including electro-magnetic fields.

The 230-kilovolt transmission line is the least powerful among those planned by the CapX2020 group. The other four lines will carry 345 kilovolts of power.

Besides Otter Tail Power, the draft agreement that sets the stage for settling the transmission line route names Northern States Power Co., a unit of Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy; Duluth-based Minnesota Power Co.; Maple Grove-based Great River Energy; and Grand Forks, N.D.-based Minnkota Power Cooperative Inc.

A land deal would clear the way for construction of the line, which is expected to be complete in 2013.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace