A blowback is developing to plans for a gargantuan power line running across southern Scott County.
The Scott County Board on Tuesday unanimously opposed the two proposed routes. Two townships also are on record against the preferred route, and a third was expected to join them late Tuesday.
"These routes will have a significant impact on future planning for this corridor," the county's planning manager, Brad Davis, said of County Road 2, a key road across the southern end of the county. "It's slated to become an arterial, with a need for expanded right-of-way. Putting power lines there really impacts future planning."
At issue is the so-called CAPX project, a 345-kilovolt transmission line being planned to run from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton, in rural Dakota County. The utilities proposing the line have chosen what they call "preferred" and "alternative" routes. Neither avoids Scott County, but the preferred option affects it the most.
A state agency is now considering the power line route. Open houses to explain the plans and to gather responses are taking place this week, with one in Lakeville for much of the day and evening today.
Scott County is suggesting a variant to the two routes that includes elements of both but strives to avoid homes and areas planned for lots of future housing.
The county's objection to stringing the massive poles along county roads underscores how thankless is the task of siting major new power lines.
The utilities have said they're proud to have avoided private property as much as possible. They're quick to add that, since they're proposing single-masted structures, as opposed to mini-Eiffel Towers with multiple legs. Farmers can plow right up to the base and lose very little land for crops.
The lines are needed, the utilities say, because of population growth of the kind Scott County prides itself on, as well as rapid increases in electricity use in existing households as people add multiple televisions, computers and other devices.
But Joyce Osborne, an activist with the group United Citizens Action Network, blamed corporate America for foisting the project on local people, adding that it will mainly deliver coal-derived energy even as the utilities talk a lot about wind power.
"We need to curb big business," she told the board. "And that's what this is, big business."
Joe Wagner, the County Board member who represents the county's rural west, said the calls and e-mails are rivaling those opposing the plan to build a 19,500-seat amphitheater near Jordan in the late '90s and the early part of this decade. That doomed project was described by recently departed county administrator Dave Unmacht as the nastiest issue in the county in the past decade.
"We're told that Rice County doesn't want it, either," said Joel Helmberger, an elected supervisor from New Market Township. "But the fact is, land is a lot cheaper there."
David Peterson • 952-882-9023