Electric Transmission Line Project Makes Progress

By Andrew Tellijohn

 The Fargo-to-St. Cloud rung of a proposed electric transmission line is moving ahead.

The CapX2020 utilities recently filed an application for a corridor compatibility certificate with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, a move required as part of choosing a corridor for the proposed 210-mile transmission line between Fargo and St. Cloud. The application includes four potential corridors, including one that would involve locating the project along the planned Red River flood diversion project.

The project took another step forward recently when the Minnesota Commerce Department released its final environmental impact statement, which covers potential environmental hazards that could arise from placing a high-voltage transmission line along a major highway, and potential solutions for those problems.

“We’ve hit some milestones and really are moving forward,” said Tim Carlsgaard, a spokesman for Xcel Energy and the project.

The environmental statement is not a decisive ruling, but is one of several pieces of evidence now in the hands of a Minnesota administrative law judge, who will issue a report recommending which line should be selected for the Fargo-to-St. Cloud stretch, said Commerce Department spokeswoman Nicole Garrison-Sprenger.

That report, likely to be issued in March, will be submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which will make the final route decision.

CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 electronic transmission-owning utilities that propose expanding the electric transmission grid across the region. Construction already has started on a 30-mile segment of the project between Monticello and St. Cloud. Carlsgaard said there are about 20 towers up and there will be about 150 by the time that stretch of the project is finished by the end of the year.

“We’re doing about one a day,” he said. “That is moving full steam ahead.”

The CapX2020 project has three other segments, as well. Clearing of trees has started on the 70-mile leg between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, Carlsgaard said. A route has been approved and construction should start in June.

The other two routes are in various levels of the route selection and approval process.