Transmission line proposal floors some area residentsWANAMINGO — Rural Goodhue County residents speak up about the proposed CapX202 transmission lines.
By: Kay Fate, The Republican Eagle
WANAMINGO — Barb St. John attended the public scoping meeting about the CapX2020 transmission lines earlier this month, "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.
She said she felt ambushed.
"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."
The 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, Minn., 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.
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 Highway 52 or parallel to (Highway) 56."
Once the certificate of route is presented to the state, it will be public meetings and hearings will likely continue for another 12 to 15 months process.
The $2 billion project must be approved by 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."
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."
For the time being she said she's gathering information and informing Holden Township residents.
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."
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."
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."