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Minnesota ALJ recommends approval of MPL-Laporte 115-kV line

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An administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, in an April 27 report, recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission grant a route permit for Minnkota Power Cooperative’s proposed MPL-Laporte 115-kV Transmission Line project that authorizes construction of the project along either Minnkota’s proposed route or the “Seeger 2 Route.”

As noted in the report, the approximately 9.4-mile high voltage transmission line (HVTL) would be located near the City of Laporte in Clearwater and Hubbard counties in Minnesota, and serve the Minnesota Pipeline (MPL) Laporte Pump Station. The project is intended to serve an industrial load for the new pumping station to be built and operated by Minnesota Pipeline Company, the report said, noting that the pumping station is part of the Minnesota Pipeline Company’s Reliability Project.

Further describing the project, the report said that Minnkota proposes to supply power to the MPL Laporte Station by construction of a new substation adjacent to the proposed pump station and a new overhead 115-kV transmission line connecting via three-way switch to an existing 115-kV line.

Minnkota’s proposed route for the HVTL begins in Itasca Township, extends west from the existing line, and then south, adjacent to existing roadway right of way (ROW) along 281st Avenue for about 3.7 miles. The proposed route then turns east and southeast, cutting cross-country, until it reaches State Highway 200, the report added.

The HVTL continues southeast adjacent to State Highway 200 and crosses the county line into Hubbard County. Just after entering Hubbard County, the line turns east and is located adjacent to 400th Street for about 1.7 miles, the report added.

The HVTL turns south at 115th Avenue and continues south, adjacent to existing roadway ROW for about two miles before turning west for about 2,350 feet, adjacent to County Road 95. The report also said that the line then turns south, crossing County Road 95 and entering the new substation site.

Minnkota’s request includes route widths ranging from 150 feet to 450 feet at the interconnection sites, and 400 feet to 810 feet at the substation site, the report said, noting that the variable route widths are meant to allow for sufficient flexibility to work with landowners and address engineering constraints.

Minnkota plans to acquire an 80-foot to 100-foot permanent easement or ROW on each side of the transmission line’s anticipated alignment, or centerline, within the route, the report said. Where the HVTL is placed cross-country on private land, an easement for the entire ROW would be acquired from affected landowners, the report said.

The HVTL would be carried on single wood or steel poles with horizontal post or horizontal brace insulators, and a single shield wire for the majority of the proposed route, the report noted. The poles are proposed to be self-supporting (unguyed), and directly embedded, the report said, adding that the structures would range in height from 80 feet to 110 feet, with a 300-foot to 350-foot span between structures.

Discussing the Seeger 2 Route, the report noted that that route follows Minnkota’s proposed route north to south, as far as the proposed route’s intersection with the MPL pipeline corridor. At that point, the Seeger 2 Route follows the MPL pipeline corridor south to the project ending, the report said.  

The report noted that the state Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (DOC-EERA) in March recommended that the commission grant a route permit for Minnkota’s proposed route.

Minnkota initially anticipated a winter 2017 in-service date when it filed its application, basing that date on its estimate that it would receive a route permit in 1Q17. The report added that Minnkota states that it will develop a new project schedule depending on which route is selected.

Minnkota estimates that the installation of the new line and substation would cost about $7.2m, and of that amount, about $5.1m is attributable to the line, while $2.1m is attributed to the substation, according to the report.

There are no homes or structures within the anticipated ROW of any of the eight routing options and, therefore, no displacement is anticipated as a result of the project, regardless of the route chosen, the report said.

The proposed route and the Seeger 2 Route would each have minimal aesthetic impact, and no significant impacts are anticipated to cultural values as a result of project construction, the report said.

Also, the proposed route, as well as the Seeger 2 and 6 Routes, are expected to have minimal impacts on recreation because they avoid both LaSalle Creek and the minimal maintenance forest road. The report further noted that impacts to agricultural operations as a result of the project are anticipated to be minimal. Measures that can be taken to mitigate impacts to agriculture as a result of the project include scheduling construction during lulls in agricultural activity to the extent possible, as well as placing structures to accommodate existing or proposed irrigation systems, the report said.

Among other things, the report said that the proposed route is anticipated to have minimal impacts in all respects according to the route permit factors in statute and rule, with the exception of its impact on rare and unique resources.

The proposed route is anticipated to have moderate adverse impacts on rare and unique resources because portions of the route intersect areas of rich biodiversity. Where the proposed route does not follow existing infrastructure, Minnkota has, for the most part, directed the proposed route around the edges of areas of rich biodiversity, the report added.

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