Judge to hear Minneapolis power line disputeby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Supporters and opponents of two proposed high-voltage power lines and substations in south Minneapolis will present their cases to a judge on Monday.
Xcel Energy says the transmission lines are necessary to meet the increasing demand for power in the city, but opponents question the safety of the utilities' proposal and the need for new lines.
Xcel wants to run either overhead or underground lines through the Midtown section of Minneapolis, just north of the busy Lake Street corridor.
But neighborhood groups have contested Xcel's permit request to the Public Utilities Commission, and that has triggered the hearing process in front of an administrative law judge.
Recently, the judge listened to public testimony at a series of hearings held near the proposed project site.
Avigdor Edminster, an opponent of the power line, said he doesn't want any more power lines built in the city. He'd rather see the creation of more alternative energy sources like wind and solar.
Edminster is particularly opposed to a route option that includes the construction of an overhead power line along the Midtown Greenway -- a popular bicycle route through the city. He said the line would ruin a resource that helps people use environmentally friendly transportation.
"There's a sickening irony to the fact that the thousands of people who use the greenway are exemplifying the kinds of environmentally sensible changes we all need to be making in our everyday lives and neighborhoods," he said.
Edminster grudgingly added that if a power line has to be installed, it should follow a different route option proposed by Xcel. That option -- called Route D -- would run the lines under a street parallel to the greenway.
That view was shared by many of the neighborhood advocates who testified. Opponents also say overhead lines are an eyesore, and some believe the magnetic emissions from the lines are a health hazard.
Xcel Energy's preferred route is to run a line along the greenway, but the utility hasn't expressed a preference between an above or underground installation.
However, Xcel's project manager Betty Mirzayi says an underground line would take three times longer to install and would cost five times more than an overhead line.
"Overhead goes up a lot more quickly. It's less invasive construction," she said. "We're not digging up streets and having to dig huge trenches."
Mirzayi said it will cost between $28 million and $40 million to build the substations and install the lines. She said Xcel decided to propose the project because the Midtown section of the city is growing in population and in density, and Mirzayi said that's putting a strain on the existing system.
"Because of that, our customers in the area are experiencing power quality problems, inadequate voltage," she said. "And when there are reliability issues such as outages, it can be prolonged because we don't have an adequate system to back things up."
During the state hearings, representatives from Xcel and about a dozen intervening parties -- which are mostly neighborhood associations -- will present arguments for and against the preferred route. The hearings are scheduled through this week and could continue for several weeks.
At the conclusion of the hearings the administrative law judge will make a recommendation to the Public Utilities Commission on which route to authorize. However, the commission has the final say on whether to grant Xcel permission to build the line.
- Morning Edition, 04/12/2010, 6:20 a.m.