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“We’ve sat in the same room and the same public forums and have debated each other,” said Tim Carlsgaard, a project spokesman who has handled many of the meetings. “It has always been civil and constructive.”
Carlsgaard denied that utilities have stalled farmers like Lindberg and the Schwartzes. He said their properties are to be purchased, though the final terms have not been worked out. He said the valuation on Lindberg’s property is complicated because the land is near a planned future Interstate 94 interchange and eventually could become a commercial site.
“There is frustration definitely,” Carlsgaard said. Once a buy-the-farm request is made, “it goes into this very long process.”
Utilities have accepted 46 of the 79 requests by CapX2020 landowners so far, he said. Many are for homes, rather than farms, he said. Additional requests may be made on the last segment in southeast Minnesota, on which property acquisition has just begun, he said.
Along the Monticello-Fargo transmission line, utilities agreed to buy 30 properties and opposed 15 requests, Carlsgaard said. Some cases landed in the courts, which have long overseen land condemnations.
So far, $5 million has been spent to purchase 18 properties on the Monticello-Fargo line, Carlsgaard said. That compares to an estimated $500,000 the utilities would have spent on easements, he said. Purchased properties are being resold, but utilities take a loss, he added.
Carlsgaard said utilities have taken no formal position on the bill, but would prefer to wait for a ruling later this year from the state Supreme Court on a disputed case. He said utilities are willing to discuss changing the law to improve the pace of property purchases.
The committee did not vote on the bill because the hearing was meant to be informational. Some legislators had questions, and one offered a strong reaction .
“I think the system is inherently unfair,” said Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, who is a farmer. “It is stacked against people.”
David Shaffer • 612-673-7090 • Twitter: @ShafferStrib