Linwood residents learn about new GRE transmission line

by Alice Pickering
Forest Lake Times

There was a lot of interest at the Linwood Town Board meeting June 26 as Peter Schaub of Great River Energy presented the final route for the extension of the 69 kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Athens Township to the Martin Lake substation on Typo Creek Drive NE (CR-85).

More than 30 township residents attended.

The project has received approval from East Bethel City Council and Athens Township. Permits from these governmental units have been approved.

According to Schaub, several surveys need to be completed before construction begins. These are needed for environmental issues, cultural and the land survey.

Design of the detailed parts of the route begins now. Most poles will be about 80 feet tall. The contractors will under build parts of the route where they can. This means replacing some of the power poles with taller ones and adding the distribution lines to the new poles, underneath the transmission lines.

Schaub said spacing between poles will be between 200 and 300 feet. Depending on the route, poles will be placed at the edge of the right of way instead of in the middle of it.

The 35-foot right of way is for safety. In hot weather or at times of heavy usage, the lines can and do sag. Transmission lines carry higher voltage. Unlike distribution lines, they can start fires if they contact trees or foliage.

According to Schaub, the company will work with owners to reach a “fair and good” price on the property. Easements must be obtained on property and in instances where lines pass over properties.

Every effort will be made to avoid having lines pass directly in front of homes to lessen aesthetic impact and the route will follow the distribution lines on 229th Avenue N.E., once it heads east from Sunset Road to Typo Creek Drive, Schaub said.

There were some questions about the permit from East Bethel. Gary Wettschreck asked why the route had not been planned south to Cooper’s Corners, then east along roads to Typo Creek Drive.

Schaub said eminent domain does not supersede zoning laws.

GRE sued East Bethel after the East Bethel council denied GRE’s preferred route in June 2011. The delays in the decision are making it necessary to move ahead on the route he described, Schaub said.

There are 28 electric co-ops in Minnesota. Schaub said if all projects were as difficult as this one, electric rates would skyrocket.

According to Paul DeVange, who lives on Sunset Road, his information shows that many more Linwood residents will be affected than those in East Bethel and Athens Township.

There were questions about why the township did not put up a fight about this.

Town Board Chairman Mike Parker said that the township “can’t afford litigation.”

There were other questions about why Typo Creek Drive could not be the route, south from Fawn Lake Drive.

According to Schaub, there are potential historical and archeological considerations along that section of the road.

When these types of projects are proposed, the Minnesota Historical Society is contacted. A consultant goes through records to determine if there are concerns about the route. These are available to the public to look up, however, they are not publicized because of concerns about vandalism.

Of the 15 or 16 routes proposed, the one presented was the best for now, Schaub said.