Negotiations continue for Great River Energy power line expansion

Alice Pickering
Linwood Reporter

Great River Energy has plans to install a 69-KV power line from its substation in Athens Township (Isanti County), south and east to tie in with the Martin Lake substation in Linwood Township.

Increasing demands for electricity in the area, improved reliability of electric service and efforts to avoid power outages are reasons for the expansion.

GRE first approached the Linwood Town Board in March and April of 2009 about the proposed project. Because the line would cross municipal boundaries GRE must also negotiate and reach agreements with Athens Township and the city of East Bethel.

Linwood Supervisor Phil Osterhus indicated that East Bethel officials have been in negotiations with GRE. Jack Davis, city administrator, and Robert DeRoche, Jr., a member of the East Bethel City Council, attended the Linwood board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Davis said East Bethel officials have participated in two court supervised mediation sessions about the power line proposal. They were scheduled to meet with GRE representatives on Monday, March 5. East Bethel plans to present an alternative to the “Route A” originally proposed by GRE, with a more northern route that GRE indicated they would consider.

East Bethel Plan

East Bethel’s proposal is a route from the Athens substation east along Isanti CR-56, continuing east and south along CR-15 to the northeast corner of Fish Lake in East Bethel.

From there, the route would continue east to Sunset Road (Anoka CR-78), south along Sunset to CR-26, continuing east to Typo Creek Drive (CR-85), then south to the Martin Lake substation.

This route is similar to the one originally presented nearly three years ago.

Davis said the major consideration is the least overall impact to residents and to the environment. East Bethel’s suggestions for the route are based on the route passing the fewest number of homes with efforts to minimally impact environmentally sensitive areas and consideration of the costs to install the line.

From the beginning there has been opposition to the line because of the requirements associated with installation of the poles. The policy is to have clear cut areas in the path of the poles, both for construction and access to individual sites for maintenance and repair.

DeRoche explained that residents are concerned about home values now and when the line is installed. That is what is upsetting to residents along the various portions of potential routes, he said.

No one wants to lose 50- or 60-year old trees, with replacement of much smaller immature shrubs, he added. The concern, he said, is aesthetics and decreased property values.

Officials said some residents are opposed to the various routes because of the number of trees which will be cut, eliminating screening from the road, loss of shade and general aesthetics. The path of the power line requires 35 feet on both sides of the lines, but could take up to 45 feet.

Linwood Views

Osterhus spoke in favor of reduced area of clear cutting along the route eventually selected.

There are restrictions about the height of vegetation which would replace the cut trees. Residents living along Typo Creek Drive, south from CR-26 to the Martin Lake substation will have their trees cut no matter which route is followed. The east side has tall pines and the west side has old growth red and white oak, as well as pine trees.

GRE has not been in contact with Linwood in about two years.

Linwood Town Board Chairman Mike Parker believes there will be a power line extension but he wants GRE to work with residents to set a route that does the least damage.

DeRoche said that while in discussions GRE representatives indicated the company is willing to make concessions but he wants everything in writing.

Other Topics

Parker read the board of audit document to the supervisors. This is a review of the township’s accounting practices, also indicates that officials have seen the information and signed in approval. Approval was unanimous. The same information goes the to township auditor.

The town board unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Northern Lighter Pyrotechnics to provide fireworks for 2012 Linwood Family Fun Day, Saturday, September 8.  The cost for the display is $3,500, the same as for 2011.  Supervisors were enthusiastic in their support of the program.

Other Business

In other business, the town board:

•Reminded residents of the annual meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 13 at the Linwood Town Hall. Residents will set the 2013 property tax following a presentation of the budget.

•By a vote of 5-0, approved the data practices and procedures document. Revisions had been completed by Attorney Gerald Randall.

•Unanimously approved payment of the Feb. 28, bills of $7,951.36.

•Approved the minutes of the February 14, board meeting.  The vote was 5-0.

•Unanimously approved minutes of the meeting with the auditor on Feb. 22.

•Learned the next Linwood Township Road and Bridge meeting has been changed from March 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 12.