The Ramsey City Council June 25 unanimously approved two easement agreements with Great River Energy so that a transmission line project can move forward in one area and a prairie restoration can occur in another.
Great River Energy is currently purchasing easements to place a new 115-kilovolt transmission line from the Enterprise Park substation in Anoka to the Crooked Lake substation in Coon Rapids. This route also impacts the communities of Ramsey and Andover. Site work could begin this winter and the wood poles could start going up next year.
“This is a project that comes out of need and it deals with capacity and that capacity will drive economic development and our growth as a city, so this is a much needed improvement,” said Councilmember John LeTourneau.
A separate agenda item pertained to a tree clearing project that happened along an existing 69-kilovolt transmission line that runs through the west side of Alpine Park. The tree clearing happened last winter.
The 115-kilovolt transmission line crosses the Rum River on the south side of Bunker Lake Boulevard, but immediately goes to the north side of the county road to avoid the portion of Rivers Bend Park where there is more activity. Ramsey is selling a parcel of land to the energy company for $38,551.
Ramsey is selling a second parcel for $10,454 that is located in the business park next to the Anoka border and an Anoka water tower.
According to Great River Energy, the transmission line will primarily be wood poles varying in height from 65 to 80 feet and spaced 250 to 400 feet apart.
The city had hoped the route would follow Highway 10, but spacing, infrastructure conflicts and right of way management issues are the reasons that Great River Energy did not pursue this choice, according to Tim Gladhill, Ramsey community development services manager.
“I think it’s unfortunate, especially from an aesthetic perspective that the line is traversing Rivers Bend Park and the Rum River at that point versus a Highway 10 corridor, but I understand the limitations of Highway 10 and understand that our sphere of influence was probably limited during that comment period,” Mayor Sarah Strommen said.
Rick Heuring, senior field representative for Great River Energy, said easement acquisition is expected to wrap up this fall and construction will start in December with the line being energized one year from now.
Prairie restoration in Alpine Park
Instead of allowing this area of Alpine Park to grow new trees that ultimately would need to be taken down to avoid possible interference with the transmission line, the city of Ramsey with the assistance of Prairie Restoration, Inc. of Princeton proposes turning this easement into a permanent prairie.
Byron Johnson, supervisor of vegetation management for Great River Energy, said this means the site will not have to be visited as often for maintenance.
Native trees and shrubs that would mature at a height of seven to 14 feet will be planted along the west property line of the park to provide some visual screening for homeowners, according to Prairie Restoration’s planning document.
The project is estimated to cost about $14,000, which will be paid by Great River Energy, and includes three years of initial site maintenance and wildflower seeding.
Councilmember Chris Riley said having this easement be a prairie rather than having to take down trees every so often is a great long-term solution.
“There is heartbreak involved in tearing down the trees only to have them grow back later so I think this is a great answer,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The Anoka Municipal Utility once owned this easement, but had recently sold it to Great River Energy, which has been clearing trees along its transmission lines as a safety precaution.
Derreck Schlangen, senior substation engineer with Great River Energy, previously told ABC Newspapers that arc flashes are also a concern if vegetation gets too close to these transmission lines. An arc flash is a short circuit through air that can flash over from an energized conductor like a power line to trees or anything else that conducts electricity.
Jim McGuire, a transmission line design engineer supervisor with Great River Energy, said the metal transmission wires stretch and sag during warm summer days due to the increased electrical demand of more air conditioners running and the hot temperature having an impact on the wires themselves.
“The utility companies have a mandate these days, especially with high voltage transmission lines to make sure there is security,” said Mark Riverblood, Ramsey parks and assistant public works superintendent.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]