FAIRMONT - Two meetings held in Fairmont on Tuesday offered information from a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed ITC Midwest 345-kV transmission line project.
The proposed line would run from Lakefield Junction in Jackson County, through Martin County, into Faribault County and then go south into Kossuth County in Iowa. The line would stretch 75 miles through southern Minnesota.
An original plan had the line running south of Interstate 90 on the north end of Sherburn, something that had many Sherburn residents concerned. But a modified route puts the transmission line north of the interstate instead.
While many in Sherburn may breathe a tentative sigh of relief, the original route will not be completely off the table until fall, when the state Public Utilities Commission decides on the certificate of need and route permit. To help, an administrative law judge is called in to review the project and issue a decision.
"The commission is not bound by the judge's decision, but it holds a lot of sway, since they are the ones that hire him," said Ray Kirsch, environmental review manager with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
The judge is present at public hearings, comment periods and contested case hearings. Public hearings for the project will be held May 13-14.
Comments also are being accepted from now until May 9. Several people in attendance Tuesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall spoke on the record, many of them Sherburn residents who voiced concerns about the original route plan that took the lines into town.
"Route A, as it was proposed, would run 120 feet from our church building," said Ron Mixer, pastor at Sherburn Regional Worship Center. "If that route is selected, it would make our church building unusable."
Mixer went on to explain that the building is all metal, and the lines would likely interfere with the building's P.A. system, low-level radio frequency that helps the hard of hearing and the church's video transmission. But those problems pale in comparison to the potential dangers the line would pose to those who attend the church, he argued.
"If something were to fail with those lines, it would be catastrophic," Mixer said.
Health concerns also were expressed by others in attendance.
"We have great concerns about Route A," said Martin County West Superintendent Allison Schmidt. "About 500 of the 700 students in my school district attend schools in Sherburn. While we appreciate the modified Route A, I believe there still is a concern for the health of those 500 students and staff members, so we would like that clarified."
"It has been shown that high-voltage exposure is harmful for children and unborn children," said Sarah Jagodzinske Rohman, a Martin County West school board member. "We hope you will look into protecting us as rate-payers, but more importantly as humans and our children, who are our future."
There also were concerns about property values.
"A business that planned to build on some property just south of the interstate said he wouldn't if that power line went through," said Helen Murphy. "He said, 'This line will kill Sherburn.'"
Verbal comments at the meeting were recorded for the report to the PUC, and other comments will be accepted until May 9 by mail, fax or e-mail to Kirsch. Comments can be left online at mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities
Mailing address: Ray Kirsch, Environmental Review Manager, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 Seventh Place East, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55101-2198
Fax: (651) 539-0109