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Patrick Springer, Published June 21 2010

Power line’s path concerns Fargo, township officials

A planned high-voltage power transmission line connecting Fargo to the Twin Cities is generating concerns among residents who could fall in its path.

The proposed CapX2020 power line, backed by a consortium of Minnesota utilities, is a $550 million project slated for completion by 2015.

The chief concern among officials for the city of Fargo and nearby townships: The power line’s route, if placed too close, could impede future growth of cities and subdivisions to the south and west.

That concern is heightened by separate plans for a Red River flood-control diversion channel that could bypass Fargo-Moorhead to the west – therefore establishing a protected zone that will define growth patterns for decades.

“I really would like to see it south and west of wherever the diversion would end up,” said Jim Gilmour, planning director for the city of Fargo.

Areas inside the diversion channel would be well-protected against flooding, and therefore attractive for development, while growth outside the diversion would be much less appealing, officials said.

Officials of Stanley Township, located just south of Fargo, through which the preferred transmission route would pass, have concerns similar to Fargo’s.

“Why would you put a power line in the only place Fargo has to grow?” asked Paula Ekman, a Stanley Township supervisor. “Of all the potential routes of this, it seems to make the least sense to put it through” the city’s logical growth path.

An alternative route would extend the transmission corridor farther south, through Richland County, and cross the Red River into Minnesota south of Wahpeton, N.D.

“To me it would be more feasible to go farther south because that’s going to block any further development,” Mathson said, favoring the southern alternative route over the preferred path through Stanley Township.

The preferred path through Cass County would be close to 112th Avenue South, Mathson said, where several homes would be directly affected.

A spokesman for the CapX2020 project said the utilities will try to address the concerns of landowners, cities and townships when determining the route.

“We absolutely understand,” said Tim Carlsgaard of Xcel Energy, the lead partner in the Fargo-Monticello, Minn., transmission line project. “We get it. We’re doing our best to work with the concerned citizens and cities and townships.”

CapX2020 representatives have been invited to appear before the Cass County Commission today to discuss the project and to respond to concerns.

The transmission line, planned to allow its capacity to be doubled in the future, would carry power from wind farms in North Dakota to the Twin Cities market. It also will improve transmission reliability for the Fargo area.

Regulatory approvals for the power line are pending in Minnesota. Most of the permits for the transmission project’s corridor in North Dakota are yet to be filed but are expected later this summer.

In North Dakota, the CapX2020 partners have asked the Public Service Commission to make an advanced determination of prudence. If granted, the “seal of approval” would make it easier to borrow money for the project.

But the utilities have not filed permit applications in North Dakota to demonstrate the need for the project, corridor compatibility or route.

Because the utilities first concentrated their regulatory applications in Minnesota, Stanley Township officials believe Minnesota’s preferred corridor could be imposed on North Dakota.

“I think they thought it wasn’t going to be an issue,” Dave Mathson, chairman of the Stanley Township Board, said of regulatory approvals in North Dakota. “They’re very mistaken about that.”

The CapX2020 partners started the regulatory process in Minnesota because the process is more involved and takes longer, Carlsgaard said.

The preferred route of the 345-kilovolt line as it bypasses Fargo-Moorhead involves a new substation northwest of Mapleton, N.D. As it heads south, before bending east, the power line would pass west of Mapleton.

“From Mapleton, I don’t see a problem if they keep it on the far western edge” of the proposed corridor, said Larry Graf, a member of the Mapleton City Council.

That route would be outside the city and should pass just west of the city’s golf course. When the project was discussed at a council meeting, “we did not hear any opposition to it whatsoever,” Graf said.

He added, however, that some farmers in the area are talking to the utilities in an effort to get a route that is the least obtrusive to their property.

“Everything’s on the table,” Carlsgaard said, referring to the final route. But, he added, transmission lines for the project cost an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million per mile.

“At the end of the day, the ratepayer, you and I, pay for these things,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522