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Last chance for comment on Hiawatha power line proposal

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • January 8, 2012 - 8:57 PM

This week, the public has a last chance to weigh in on the routing of the proposed Hiawatha high-voltage transmission line that Xcel Energy wants to build in the Lake Street corridor in south Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has booked parts of two days to hear arguments by parties to the controversy and from the public, and then to deliberate the issue. But you'd better bring a lunch.

The commission has scheduled almost three hours for the arguments by formal parties on Tuesday and afterward will give anyone else three minutes to testify. It will deliberate on Thursday and possibly make a decision. Both sessions are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, St. Paul.

The commission needs to sort through whether to issue a certificate of need for the project, whether an environmental review is adequate, and perhaps most significantly, which route the transmission lines should follow.

An administrative law judge recommended 15 months ago that the 115-kilovolt line be buried under E. 28th Street -- a victory for city and neighborhood groups that sought that alternative. The permitting staff of the Minnesota Department of Commerce last month also backed that route.

That's a more expensive option but one that would keep the transmission lines off the Midtown Greenway, a public bike and pedestrian corridor that runs one block north of Lake Street.

The utility proposed several possible routes for the line, including along the greenway's rim, either overhead or buried, following 28th, or splitting the line between E. 28th Street and either E. 26th Street or E. 31st Street. It also proposes two substations, one along Hiawatha Avenue and another on the greenway's north rim on Oakland Avenue.

Left unsettled for now is who should pay the extra $13.6 million cost to bury the lines under 28th, which the commission will decide. The city argues that Xcel should spread that cost widely rather than assess it to the immediate area's customers.

Xcel has argued that the new line is necessary to assure reliable service to the area. Some opponents argue the utility should be required to try more conservation measures.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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