Press coverage of RUS meetings

Filed under:News coverage,RUS EIS — posted by admin on June 24, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

nocapxherePhoto by Kay Fate/Kenyon Leader

Public gets the chance to comment on high voltage power lines

Hey, www.nocapx2020.info got plastered across the screen!!!

From WXOW 19

Deadline approaching for CapX 2020 concerns

From the Cannon Falls Beacon:

High voltage power line headed for Hwy 52?

Comment section here, LaCrosse Tribune:

Federal utilities group to begin review of CapX 2020 project

And from the Kenyon Leader:

Power line irks residents

Kay Fate-The Kenyon Leader

WANAMINGO — Barb St. John attended the public scoping meeting about the CapX2020 transmission lines last week, “basically as a (Holden) township official,” she said, “because we didn’t know the route” the lines would take.

On the way in to the Wanamingo Community Center, “I met one of my neighbors, and she said, ‘boy, am I relieved. It’s not going to be on my property,’ ” St. John remembers. “I said, ‘oh, where is it going?’ and followed her back inside.”

Where it was going, it turned out, was right down St. John’s own property line in Holden Township.

She’d had no idea.

“Ambushed,” she said, “is a pretty good word for it.

“We’d all gotten a notification about a month ago,” she said, “but it was kind of a broad thing.”

Nowhere on the notice, St. John said, did she see her property singled out as part of the transmission line route. But as a township official, she knew of the possibility.

“We’d talked about it a little at the township level,” she said, “but I don’t think they were aware (then) of this route.”

Last week’s meeting in Wanamingo — which drew nearly 250 people — was designed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to allow input for an environmental impact statement, a project requirement.

The CapX2020 utilities are proposing the construction of a 345-kilovolt electric transmission line and associated facilities to run between Hampton and Rochester. The proposal included the 345 kV transmission line from a substation near Hampton to a proposed substation in north Rochester, then on to a new or existing substation near La Crosse, Wis.

The transmission line poles, which will be placed anywhere from 800 to 1,000 feet apart, will be 8 to 10 feet in diameter.

Xcel Energy is the lead utility for the proposal.

The route St. John saw isn’t set in stone, cautioned Tim Carlsgaard, communications manager for CapX2020.

The final route will be determined sometime in the fall, he said.

The large turnout in Wanamingo was because “we had narrowed down the proposed route options from many to few,” Carlsgaard said. “We have to provide the state with at least two route options for this project. If you’re in that Wanamingo area, you’re going to see it — either on Hwy. 52 or parallel to (Hwy.) 56.”

Once the certificate of route is presented to the state, it will be “another 12- to 15-month process with public meetings and public hearings,” he said. Even then, landowners or township residents “may present the state with their own route option.”

When the final route has been determined by the state, “we’ll talk to the landowner about acquiring an easement, a right-of-way,” Carlsgaard said.

In addition to a one-time payment for the land use, other compensation could include crop-damage or compaction. The amount paid “would depend on how many structures are on the property. We need to compensate them fairly, and be diligent about pole placement,” Carlsgaard said.

The $2 billion project must obtain approval from state and federal agencies before it can be built.

Its supporters say the project is necessary “to expand the electric transmission grid to meet the increasing demand for power.”

Not true, said one of its most vocal opponents.

“There’s a brain-washing going on here,” said Carol Overland, an attorney from Red Wing who specializes in transmission and energy issues.

“I’m getting a really strong sense that this line isn’t needed,” she said. “The Xcel (energy) demand from 2007 and 2008 dropped 11 percent. Not each year, but total. They’d planned for a 2.5 percent hike each year; that’s a 16 percent swing in demand.”

The study used by Xcel to predict demand, Overland said, “was based on 2004 information, and that’s all. It stops at 2004. They’re trying to say this (decrease) is a blip on the radar, but no, it’s been going on for years.”

Her passion about energy got its start in, of all places, Kenyon.

“After law school, I ended up in Kenyon,” Overland said. “I was just about destitute; I lived above Nygaard’s (Repair) there on Main Street. City hall was just across the street then.”

In 1994, a call was put out for a committee’s input about where to put nuclear waste from Prairie Island.

Overland responded.

“I just went as a regular old person,” she said, “not as a lawyer.”

The experience was what got her involved in nuclear energy; the rest followed naturally, she said.

CapX2020, Overland believes, “is the biggest thing to come down the pike; 80,000 landowners in Minnesota will be affected.”

At least one, of course, is St. John, who calls the project “unfortunate for farmers; it’ll break up their farmland.”

She asked a CapX official at the Wanamingo meeting why the project would be going through the middle of (farmland) sections.

“He told me, ‘because there’s too many houses along the road,’ ” St. John said. “So it’s too dangerous to go near houses, but you’ll put it over my land? He said no, he didn’t mean that, but that’s what it seemed to imply.”

For the time being, she said, “I’m just gathering information and informing the rest of Holden Township about this. People say, ‘well, how would you like it if you didn’t have any electricity?’ And I tell them, this electricity isn’t even for us, it’s going over us.”

The federal officials “want some substantial reasons for why (the project) would change the environment,” St. John said. “We’ve spent all these years conserving energy, and now it’s coming in and stepping on us.”

For her part, Overland is challenging the project on its entire basis.

The EIS process alone is predicted to take at least two years, which she said “gives me hope that it will be thorough.” That’s not enough, though.

“Some people say, ‘well, it’s OK, as long as there are conditions, if it goes somewhere else.’ Well, no; then that means it’s OK. That means it’s going to go through someone’s property. We need to start better conservation policies, more renewable energy sources,” she said.

St. John said her neighbors will be hearing from her.

“We were totally unaware that this route was cemented in,” she said. “I just want them to know that there’s a big red line going right through Holden Township, and it looks pretty specific to me.”

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace