Greetings from Grand Rapids


Intro by Judge O’Reilly…

Mark Mandich, an Itasca County Commissioner, presented County Resolution supporting the orange Effie alternative, and support Bass Lake and Wilson Lake alignment if the blue or orange is selected.  Some questions about location of the options

Now Mike Kaluzniak gives the PUC perspecive and process…

Now David Moeller, Minnesota Power:


And now a break … and then Bill Storm:

DOE received 122 comments on the DEIS (not separated out DOE & Commerce, so that must be total comments).  Hoping to have Final EIS out by October 30? (two months after public comment period closes).

And now for public comments (this is NOT all inclusive, I missed a lot while jumping up to look at maps and looking up other info):

Don Peterson (Ex. 264 & 265): Map with rectangle around his land.  Koochiching County, north of Deer River, comes laterally across 80.    Purchased it in 2012, and learned by accident of this project in January 2014.   He was never notified.  Told they get lists of landowners from county.  Is it legal to potentially confiscate land from someone without notifying them?

Buddy John Savich (Ex. 266 & 267): From Effie, 431 acre beef cattle farm and hay for sale.  Lovdahl family, farm has been in family for 57 years.  How many farms where people elected “Buy the Farm” are those farmers still farming?  Are farms targeted or do they receive preferential treatment, is it possible you’re targeting farms?  A: Try to avoid ag land to a large degree, try to avoid farms.  On Great Northern website, talks about “need to reduce coal.”  For the record, what is the “need to reduce coal?”  I’ve heard that cows cause global warming… I would opt for Buy the Farm if you’re going to come through here.  I didn’t get any notice of this route, somehow accidentally found out this fall.   He has alternative.  He’s on Map 78.  Would have happily submitted it but I didn’t get notices.  Submitting comments in December.  Ex. 267.  Is it too late to suggest these types of changes?  Is it too late to ask to go around an active farm?  I’d ask to go to southern parcel, there’s nothing there, it’s hunting land.  If the powerline goes over my farm, one less farm in Minnesota.  Is there a preference for taking land that’s already clear.

Michael Twitt (?), Magnetation (Ex. 268 map, Ex. 269 Letter) Little O’Reilly Lake.  Magnetation fully supports this Minnesota Power project.  Proposed alternative on Map 122, area is circled on map, that portion has a direct adverse impact, traverses historical mining area, includes 4 tailing basins and stockpiles, included in our permits.  Land use restrictions for that route alternative are incompatible with mining.  (no mention that Magnetation is laying off workers, shutting plants 1 and 3, or their May bankruptcy filing)

Quintin Leger, Blandin Paper Company (Ex. 270 maps 90, 99, 100, 104, 105, 107;  Ex. 271 Written comments, excerpt from conservation easement): This land is all encumbered by conservation easements, and this would affect use of this, would impair or interfere with conservation values, should protect this resource.

Dan Strand (Ex. 272 maps, 2 pages Northome variation)  Our property is on county line with Koochiching, we have a certified survey and we run right along that line.  If you run south of that line, we’re concerned with tresspassing, ask that it be moved further south, more in Itasca County, so there’s a barrier.  It’s not personal property, it’s county property.  Prefers blue route, but if orange, then J2 option and the Northome alignment.  If it didn’t get far enough south, what would you do to protect our property from tresspassing, fence or ?  A:  We do put up gates… but this is two miles… A: We would put up gates over roads…

Richard Libbey, Grand Rapids Wes Libbey Izaak Walton League (Ex. 273 Map):  Here in favor of Effie alternative in NE Itasca County.  Same route endorsed by county board.  Effie alternative is on blue route, and there’s a MCBS site there, Wasson Lake Bog, Bear and Wolf Lake?, just north of there, peat land.  Going cross country would increase forest fragmentation.

(oh-oh, think I lost someone’s comments here, _________, Ex. 274)


Trevor Johnson, Hartley Lake Association (Ex. 275, Map 103): Didn’t want to pit lakes against lakes.  We suggested another route, turned out to be not proosed, we were told various reasons this couldn’t be done, if this route could be used, Effie variation and and East Bear Lake variation.  If the Commission decides this is the route to use, can you design something that will work?  A: Short answer, yes…

Raymond Steffen, Balsam Township Supervisor (Ex. 276, Map 105): Chapel, fire hall… Preference for the blue route over the orange route.

Kathy Krook (Ex. 277, Map Snaptail Lake): Property impacted by Orange route, Balsam Township.  If this goes through will impact our entire property of 84 acres.  Father bought it 70+ years ago, I’ve lived here 60+ years, it’s where I hunt, it’s where I fish.  I’m concerned about resale value.  Who’s going to buy it with this monstrosity.  The orange has less impact, I’m primarily concerned about the Balsam variation.  I prefer the Blue route.

Catherine McLynn (Ex. 278, No of Effie) own 35 acres adjacent to 235(?), 2 miles north of Effie, affected by Orange route.  Use public land in the area.  Lot of beaver plan flowage, attracts trumpeter swans, deer, grouse, etc., support the Effie red route that would avoid this area.  Prefer using this route rather than disturbing the forest and wildlife.

Richard Libbey: Did work for MP for 25 years, was operator at Boswell station, was meter reader, familiar with different aspects of operation.  Earlier I talked about support for the Effie variation that would minimize impacts to environment.  It can be engineered in a way that would not affect the stability of the grid.  Manitoba Hydro is going to be paying 70% of the operation, impacts on us would be less MP will pay $50,000 (?) per mile which would increase tax base, Koochiching county will benefit most.  MP owns 51% of the project and MH has 49% as far as paying for operating and taxes.  Reliability and parallelling existing lines.  MP’s response in draft EIS where two 500 kV lines are parallel.  Concerns about parallel lines, the likelihood of severe event impacting lines can be … (see EIS Comment).  They were talking about having a 200 ft wide corridor, but it sounds like they maintain a 50 foot buffer, so 50 foot further away from existing lines, that would also provide habitat, rather than 600 foot wide swath.  Simultaneous outages due to weather events, develop a weather study based on actual weather in the area. (options to mitigate outages, faster repair/restoration).  They should have a monitor for weather events, can compensate, and anticipate so it won’t be such a shock to the system.  Outage years ago, set up FERC, they’ve got the system so they can isolate, with those considerations they can parallel 500 kV to Canada, so adding line to 230 in Koochiching isn’t that significant.

Winter, MP (additional testimony, missed a lot here, see transcript): Effie variation.   Three broad issues that categorise.  Issues associated with construction, operation, and maintenance, Issues of consequences of simultaneous unpanned outage event that would take out the project in addition to 500 kV, and third, environmental and length and cost considerations.  All have been floating around.  Response is more nuanced than is generally perceived.  Starting with construction, operation and maintenance — there’s been no consideration of EMF impacts along Effie route, and we would expect all three characteristics to be higher because there would be thre eof them in same corridor.  Electric field, likely to to be higher, higher structure height and meet state limits.  Magnetic fields would be higher than where we would be parallelling one, there’s no way to quantify without running some simulations and calculating what the impact would be.  Noise would be higher, and evaluating, I would expect would be pushing the MPCA at edge of RoW.  Impact might not be extreme, but if the noise is… (?), can’t tell without simulation.  Re: EMF, utility building project would not only be responsible for the project, we would also be responsible for assuring EMF and noise would be within applicable limits (?) for proposed and exisitng.  None of that has been considered or evaluated…  In addition to those impacts, we also have some concerns about helicopter access.  Helicopters would be used in some circumstances for consturction, fly structures in, maintenance, and emergency restoration.  During construction for various things we might use helicopters for, operation in vicinity of two energized lines… maybe not one issue, but conglomeration of issues, went into our decision to not go forward with this proposed route, not only impact during construction, but also operation maintenance, that operators would flat out refuse to fly over that middle line.  That’s our understanding from our conversations with our contractor.  Existing 500 kV line sandwiched between existing 500 kV and 230 kV line.  If we had structure failure…  General maintenance, it’s our understanding, because it’s parallel, would still be treated as line, approach distances would be increased.  Special constructions and design considerations, line would have to be taller, would perhaps have to be more robust in design to account for more extreme weather than it would otherwise be designed for.  Technically nuanced how we choose our return period, we could choose a longer return period to account for extreme events.  Modifications to mitigate electric field, separation between lines, 50′ separation between right of ways.  Purpose of that is not for reliability, but it’s for access, the 50′ is not a reliability, but a construction issue.  Consequences of simultaneous outage, I’m a system planner, we have identified that there is an appreciable difference between 500kV alone and 500 + 500 + 230kV all at once.  That’s covered in supplemental testimony in detail.  There are 5 existing Manitoba tie lines, this would include two.  Result, even if not a cascading event, would be a dramatic decrease in Manitoba/US transfers.  Causes, many things, and any combination thereof, I don’t want to get into discussing the likelihood, but the more localized they are, the more susceptible to events, and it increases the likelihood of a simultaneous outage.  Wildfires, we haven’t discusses impact.  It could be anything up to structural failure, or we may pre-emptively de-energize the line.  Finally, last week, intentional disruption, the larger visually the corridor, the larger the target becomes.  (DOH, good argument against central station power and large and long transmission!).  When we looked a the Effie route alternative, it was our conclusion that the difference in environmental impacts, there isn’t as drastic a difference compared to the Blue route, such as length, residences within 1,500 feet (4 v. 14), impacts to private property 77 v. 121 acres of private property, wetlands greater, MCBS Biodiversity Blue 422 acres and Effie 427 acres.  These are attached to to record last week, Ex. 76, that’s where these numbers come from.  Forested land, 14,000 v. 17,000.  I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the Effie route as the greatest route out there, we’d still be cutting trees and putting in foundations.  Blue route cost $46.6 million v.  Effie variation $57.4 million, $10.8 million difference.  That does not include costs of potentially needing higher structures, longer return period, etc., doesn’t include route specific design considerations.  ALJ: But isn’t Manitoba Hydro paying 70%?  A: With all due respect (!) it’s our preogative to control costs, and we’re not treating it any differently than we would any other project.  ALJ: That was a major consideration in the Certificate of Need.  A: The major consideration inwhy we’re building a 500 kV line rather than a 230kV, it doesn’t give us license to spend more on this project.  The factors that lead us to deem the Effie route not for consideration, we’re trying to balance all these factors, Blue and Orange similar length of parallel corridor, impacts, and Effie because of more than double parallel of 500 kV route, in addition to adding 3rd line in that corridor, it throws that balance off.  It increases the magnitude of impacts to the point where it rendered the Effie route not being viable to propose.  (Minnesota Power does NOT want this Effie variation)

Jensen cross (Commerce): Would risks be decreased with increased space between lines?  A: I would say it’s a matter of degree, the less separation the less benefit there is (to colocating).  Series of concerns with construction, operation and maintenance, used the term “may” often…  is there uncertainty?  A: Yes, there is uncertainty.  Are there various ways to mitigate those risks if PUC selects the Effie variation?  A: Additional mitigation measures would increase complexity of engineering, have ot meet 8 kV/meter limit, to extent we would have to mitigate we will, but …

_________ Marshall (Ex. 279 map): 2 parcels adjacent to Orange route.  It’s our hunting camp for 60 years or so.  I prefer not to have a powerline running right through my property,  I understand public good, it’s got to go somewhere.  I’m a retired forest manager, have had a number of dealings with MP and other utilities, and the principle, whenever practical it is best to use existing corridors.  Not have northwoods carved with multiple routes.

Ryan Reed, MN DNR Grand Rapids, coordinates divisional comments.  Point of clarification regarding Catherine McLynn’s and Mr. Marshall that DNR endorses Effie route.  We have not endorsed routes.  We did ask for additional information about forest fragmentation and some rare resources, and we were looking for more information.  We wanted a quality analysis of this route.  We’ll provide additional comments, and conditions, and may provide a preference.

Richard Libbey again – request that you consider Effie alternative…

And my turn… speaking for Residents and Ratepayers Against Not-so-Great Northern Transmission:

First, I’d noted that the meeting notice included information on how to file Comments, but there was no email, only the PUC’s Speak Out! form page, and the “U.S. Mail” option.  This is 2015.  But I learned that the day before, ALJ O’Reilly had made mention of this problem and given out her email for comments.  GOOD!  And in the introduction section this morning, she gave out her email again, noting the attachment issue!  Thanks much!

Second, I check to see if DOT, DNR and USFWS Comments were in the hearing record and they were not.  So I asked that these be entered into the hearing record because they have an impact on routing and shouldn’t be isolated in the EIS to languish in an appendix to the FEIS that won’t come out until October 30, long after everything is said and done.  BIG problem.  Commerce objected to this.  BIGGER problem.  Judge O’Reilly suggested that they be entered in, assigning exhibit numbers, and I would have to send her hard copies by mail.  OK, whatever, if that’s what it takes.  MP and Commerce did agree. (hard copies mailed Friday, and it was not easy, three did NOT want to download).

RRANT_Agency Comment Letters








DOT_20148-102265-01 8-14-42014

And finally, the odd one, the landowner notice.  Background: Prior to my Comment time, Asst. A.G. Linda Jensen wanted to chat about this.  The Commerce position is that this was a simple clerical error, that Bill Storm, EERA Commerce, had handed Sharon Ferguson a pile of documents to eFile, and she had written up and attached that July 27, 2015 Certificate of Service in error, and then eFiled it. Here’s what was filed:

7 27 2015_Notice_see p18-19_20157-112741-01

What I got out of that conversation is that they did not want me to bring it up at the hearing.

Sure, that Commerce explanation of adding an additional Certificate of Service in error is possible, but that’s not what the documents show, and in my experience, Sharon Ferguson is anything but a ditz — she’s thorough and conscientious and has been doing this forever — and I have run into routing dockets where people got late notice where a utility is trying to find a last minute way around a prohibitive situation — so inquiring minds want to know…

More background:  I always go right to the source.  On Wednesday, after discovering this, at 9:44 a.m., I called Commerce (phone number I found online for Sharon Ferguson didn’t work), was rerouted to Sharon, and we went over the filing very carefully, she pulled up the document, and I had it up on my screen.  I asked about the February 9, 2015 notice, and about the July 27, 2015 notice, and specifically whether it meant that the pages of “new landowners” following the February notice were sent out in February, and she said they were, and whether the one page of “ADDITIONAL new landowners” were sent out in July as stated in the July “ADDITIONAL new landowners” Certificate of Service.  She confirmed that is what happened.  I asked again to be sure, whether that last page of landowners with the “ADDITIONAL new landowners” footer was sent notice on July 27, 2015, and she again confirmed that.

That’s when I wrote up the RRANT Motion for Intervention Out-of-Time:

RRANT_Motion to Intervene Out-of-Time_FINAL

More Background: Before the hearing began, I asked about the Agency Comments and learned they were not in the Record.  Later, I learned that the post-scoping landowner notices were entered by Commerce as Exhibit 113.  So ALJ O’Reilly dug out Exhibit 113.  What was Exhibit 113?  It was the filing of July 27, 2015 minus that last page with the July 27, 2015 Certificate of Service:


So they took out that 7/27/2015 Certificate of Service and filed it as Exhibit 113?  Yup.  Did they let anyone know, did the state on the record, that the eFiling of 7/27/2015 was in error, and they removed the last page?  I don’t know, wasn’t at the hearing where it was presented, but I have a feeling the “error” wasn’t mentioned.

Prior to my turn to comment, I was approached again, and the message I received, again, was that it was a simple clerical error, with the implied “don’t bring it up, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”   Having experienced first hand the last minute Myrick Route in the Brookings docket, and the Cannon Falls Hwy. 19 and Hwy. 52 last minute route alignment additions, I’m not about to shut up about it.

So back to the hearing — at the outset, I’d asked to be affirmed (yes, redundant because I’m an “Officer of the Court” but I wanted to be clear…).  And yes, I brought it up, noting that Commerce had a different position, but that this document was entered in the record, that I’d spoken with Sharon Ferguson about this for clarification, and my position that the “ADDITIONAL new landowners” was based on the July 27, 2015 filing, the Certificate of Service and this confirming conversation on Wednesday with the person who had signed the Certificate of Service.  Commerce responded with statements of “assumed” and their belief, Asst. A.G. Linda Jensen and EERA Bill Storm, that it was just an error, and neither of them said they had spoken with Ms. Ferguson about it (and given I’d filed on Wednesday, and there were breaks in the hearing, in the morning until 11 and all day long, WITH computer access, they could have, well, maybe they did, but they did not say they’d checked with her about it.  Given the looks on their faces and the “thought balloons” I saw over their heads, I’m surprised that’s all they said!  Bottom line, the ALJ was concerned, and asked that they file an Affidavit of Sharon Ferguson about what happened.  Nothing posted or eFiled yet.

If this is a simple clerical error, then let’s get that on the record.  And if not, Commerce, Minnesota Power, we have a problem.



1 Comment

Filed under 7850, Hearings, PUC Filings, Routing Docket

One Response to Greetings from Grand Rapids

  1. Thank you so much, Carol, for following and reporting on this. I feel the regulatory processes of the different agencies are biased towards giving the transmission line promoters what they want without adequate investigation.

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