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CAPX route plan attracts a little bit of resistance

GRANITE FALLS -- The first in a series of formal hearings to be held on plans for the southern route of the CAPX electric transmission project attracted some resistance from residents along its path.

About two dozen people attended the hearings during the afternoon and evening Monday at Prairie's Edge Casino Resort, but only a handful voiced concerns about the proposed route for the record, according to Administrative Law Judge Richard Luis.

The Public Utilities Commission has issued a certificate of need for an estimated, $1.7 billion upgrade to the state's electric transmission system.

Eleven utilities, including Great River Energy and Xcel Energy, are proposing the project, billed as the state's biggest transmission improvement in 30 years. It includes an estimated $700 million line that would run from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton.

The hearings at Prairie's Edge focused on a segment or spur of the Brookings-to-Hampton line. The spur line would run from a substation near Marshall to an Xcel Energy substation at its Minnesota Valley power plant near Granite Falls.

The utilities' preferred plan is to upgrade an existing, 115 kiloVolt line to 345 kiloVolts linking the two substations. They have also committed to building a second substation in Hazel Run Township of Yellow Medicine County as part of the line. It would be connected to the Minnesota Valley substation, which is being upgraded as part of the project as well.

Luis heard comments from some residents along the preferred route who would like to see the line follow an alternative route along state Highway 23 instead. Craig Poorker, Great River Energy, said the route along the highway would place the line in close proximity to the Granite Falls Municipal Airport and conflict with air safety zoning restrictions. It also takes the line away from the planned site for the Hazel Run substation.

The Highway 23 route would also affect residents. They include Cheryl Rude, who voiced her preference at last night's hearing for the preferred route.

Luis is holding similar hearings at 1 and 7 p.m. today at the Best Western in Marshall. Other hearings at locations along the route to the east will be held through Dec.11, to be followed by evidentiary hearings in St. Paul on Dec. 15 to 18.

Luis expects to issue a recommendation on a preferred corridor for the lines sometime in March, and the PUC could decide on the route in May, based on the current timeline.

To comment or learn more, view the PUC Web site:

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335