Linwood Town Board hears from Great River Energy

Alice Pickering
Linwood Reporter

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

More than 30 township residents attended.

Numerous routes have been presented, but Route A, was finally selected. The section from Sunset Road, east to Typo Creek Drive and south to the substation has remained the same for all the options.

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

Schaub explained that 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 indicated 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.

Schaub explained that 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 property (overhang).

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

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 has sued East Bethel, but the litigation is still open.  The delays in the decision are making it necessary to move ahead on the route he described.

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

Paul DeVange 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 Chair Mike Parker explained 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.

Schaub explained 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.

  • Michael Parker

    I find it ironic that this story is being reported on when the reporter was not there but attending a meeting in Wyoming. The article was written by picking and choosing parts from recordings of the meeting and not a full example of the entire context of the discussion.
    The issue of trying to fight Great River Energy and not allow the expansion into Linwood Township is not that Linwood cannot afford it, though cost is a factor, but the fact that the electrical substation they are connecting the line to is in our township. No matter which route is to be used, it will affect some of our residents.
    Since East Bethel and Athens Township has agreed on the route Great River is proposing, I believe the town board would be remiss in its duties to spend the taxpayer’s dollars to fight something that I believe we are sure to lose. East Bethel has spent approximately $100,000 on litigation so far and has failed to stop the expansion through their city to the substation.
    With this being an upgrade of electrical service to the area, I honestly believe the Public Utilities Commission will side with Great River Energy instead of the Township in this instance. No one on the town board is in favor of having this forced upon us, but due to the circumstances, and the fact that the township has no ordinances restricting this type of expansion, the township has no other choice but to work with Great River to get the project completed.

  • Steve Anderson

    I attended the Linwood meeting regarding the GRE project and I read the Times’ account of the meeting and Mr. Parker’s comments.

    I agree with Mr. Parker’s analysis of the project. I had a conversation with him after the meeting and we both agree that trying to stop a well funded utility company like GRE would be like “throwing marshmallows at an army tank” in an attempt to stop it, especially if the project met all the necessary environmental reviews, and in particlar if it were proven that no “Environmental Justice” issues existed.

    I also agree with Mr. Parker’s view that the Times article was not a full context of the meeting. However, the township’s own posted meeting minutes do not present full transcripts of town board meetings. Therefore, to be fair, I believe the Times article provided adequate coverage of the meeting. As for “picking and choosing”; the township itself often picks and chooses what information is (or is not) presented to the public. The township sends out newletters and pays to have a website, however, nothing was posted in either of them announcing issues like the recent 2% employee wage hike. Nor (to my knowledge) has there appeared in either social medium anything specific about the GRE project.

  • Marcia Fabricius

    I attended the meeting on June 26, as my property is one that will be adversely affected by this power line. Mr. Parker is incorrect in stating that the reporter was not present at the meeting. I observed Alice Pickering enter the town hall, find a seat, and make notes during the discussion. I left before she did. I find that her account of the meeting was fully adequate and reflected content of the discussion completely.