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How the power lines look now in the area of Plymouth where the project is planned.

Tom Meersman, Star Tribune

WHAT'S NEXT

After a state environmental assessment later this month, the project faces a public comment period and a public hearing. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission could make a final decision in June. Xcel says the "rebuild" would take about six months.

Plymouth fights power-line plan

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • February 4, 2012 - 7:49 PM

With a new, higher-voltage power line planned for his Plymouth neighborhood, Manny Day says the smaller existing line is enough to give him goosebumps.

"When I take walks close to the power line, you can hear that thing cackle," said Day, who lives four houses from the line. "It's the uncertainty that gets me."

Day is among dozens of homeowners fighting Xcel Energy's proposal to reconstruct and upgrade the line that crosses through several residential neighborhoods in the western suburb. They say the $23.1 million project that will replace wooden poles with taller steel ones will reduce property values and pose health and safety risks.

Xcel officials said the project is not risky, that they will work with landowners to minimize disruption, and that the extra juice is critical to keep up with electric demand in the fast-growing western suburb. The 8.8-mile line is called the Hollydale Project after an existing power substation,

"We want to provide safe and reliable service to the community, and a function of that is improving equipment from time to time," said Xcel project manager Eugene Kotz. "It's overdue in this area."

Rebuild or relocate

The current 69-kilovolt line sits atop 75-foot wooden poles, with easements that range from 35 to 50 feet on each side. It's a transmission line, but it doesn't look too much larger than the thousands of lower-voltage distribution lines that carry power along streets and alleys to homes.

Xcel's proposal would install a 115-kilovolt line on 95-foot steel poles, and officials said the easement widths along the route mostly would remain the same.

Day said that if there truly is need for more electricity, this is the perfect opportunity to yank the existing line from its neighborhood corridor and build the larger line along nearby Hwy. 55 or other roadways.

"If we can relocate this high-voltage line to a location that minimizes the effects on the population, it's a win-win situation for everybody," Day said.

Ilan Zeroni, who said the line passes within 60 feet of his home, wants Xcel to look more closely at alternative routes, even if they are longer and more expensive.

"I'm not trying to demonize anyone, but the proposed [current] route just doesn't make any sense," he said.

Just because a utility got the easement "way back when," when the area was largely farmland, he said, doesn't make it right to build a bigger line there now, especially when the land has filled in with hundreds of residential homes.

Staying ahead of growth

Xcel officials said there's no question about the need for more power in Plymouth.

The power line was built in 1971 when the city's population was about 18,000, and most of its route crossed farmland. The city now has more than 70,000 residents, and the power line is hemmed in by homes, many built in the 1990s.

Kotz said the city has "too many people, too many connections" for a 69-kilovolt line, typically built to serve rural areas. The demand for electricity has brought Plymouth dangerously close to power outages on several occasions, he said, and a larger line is critical.

The power line is owned by Great River Energy, but Xcel wants to acquire and reconstruct it to serve its customers. The project includes 8 miles of rebuilt line along the existing corridor, and 0.8 miles of new line that would connect to a new electric substation.

Joe Sedarski, Xcel's senior permitting analyst, said alternative routes for the Hollydale power line are part of the environmental review and permitting process.

However, he said state rules require utilities to consider existing routes whenever they propose improvements. Putting a power line in a different location would involve the time and expense of getting more easements, affecting a different set of homeowners, building a longer line, and other complications, Sedarski said.

The upgraded line shouldn't affect property values dramatically, if at all, because the utility plans to mimic the existing line as much as possible by installing the single steel poles in the same places where wooden poles now stand, he said.

Sedarski said the utility does not ignore the various studies on whether power lines potentially can affect health and included a summary of them in its permit request. "We don't believe that this is a significant risk to health, and we can do this safely," he said.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

By Tom Meersman meersman@startribune.com With a new, higher-voltage power line planned for his Plymouth neighborhood, Manny Day says the smaller existing line is enough to give him goosebumps. "When I take walks close to the power line, you can hear that thing cackle," said Day, who lives four houses from the line. "It's the uncertainty that gets me." Day is among dozens of homeowners fighting Xcel Energy's proposal to reconstruct and upgrade the line that crosses through several residential neighborhoods in the western suburb. They say the $23.1 million project that will replace wooden poles with taller, steel ones will reduce property values and pose health and safety risks. Xcel officials said the project is not risky, that they will work with landowners to minimize disruption, and that the extra juice is critical to keep up with electric demand in the fast-growing western suburb. The 8.8-mile line is called the

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