Chisago County approves North Branch power plantby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Chisago County officials have approved a development agreement for a proposed natural gas-fired power plant near North Branch, allowing the project to move forward.
The Sunrise River Energy Station, which would become the fourth-largest power plant in the state, had asked county commissioners to approve the agreement last month, but it failed on a 3-2 vote.
LS Power, the company building it, then offered concessions, including more money to improve the neighborhoods near the site as well as additional funds for libraries and fire stations. The board approved the development agreement earlier this week with the additional benefits.
Blake Wheatley, project manager for the Sunrise River Energy Station, said the next step is to work on the construction plans for the plant and determine where gas and water lines will go. The company also needs to make arrangements with nearby water treatment plants, he said.
LS Power plans to file an application with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a certificate of need during the second half of this year, Wheatley said. If all goes well, the earliest construction would start is late 2011, he said.
Several local groups oppose the plant. Larry Baker, whose family owns land on the Sunrise River, said he expects his group --- Friends of Sunrise River --- and others to continue opposing the plant before the PUC.
"There are likely to be very large costs," Baker said, giving examples like air pollution and roads that would need replacing more frequently because of heavy use by fuel trucks. "The (county board) seemed to be utterly uninterested in really looking at the overall costs and benefits. They saw jobs and taxes and that's all they saw."
Wheatley said the plant, which he said will sell power to utilities serving customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states, is needed to help meet future energy demand and provide backup power to wind turbines.