Questions, opposition in majority at CapX meeting

By Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer

A crowd estimated at nearly 400 people attended a public meeting at New Prague High School Tuesday, April 7, regarding the route permit application for the 345-kilovolt CapX 2020 transmission line.

Nearly everyone who spoke at the meeting listed concerns about the project in general or about having the line cut through the area.

CapX 2020 is a joint initiative of 11 utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region. One of those agencies is Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, of which New Prague Utilities is a member.

The line would stretch along a 237-mile corridor from Brookings, SD, to Hampton in Dakota County. Locally, two possible routes have been identified for the line. The preferred route crosses the Minnesota River north of Le Sueur, veers north into Scott County in the Union Hill area, then heads east in the area of Scott County Road 2. An alternate route crosses the river south of Belle Plaine, goes south into Le Sueur County, then heads east approximately two miles south of New Prague into Rice County.

Scott Ek of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security, ran the meeting. Also helping was Craig Poorker of Great River Energy, one of the companies proposing the CapX project. Ek stated the purpose of the meeting was to collect comments, concerns and alternative routes and for people to describe potential issues with farms, parks, wetlands or homes in the area.

Among those speaking were owners of such businesses as organic farms, a pyrotechnic company and a beekeeping operation who were concerned with how the line would affect their operations.

Many who live in the rural areas or operate farms spoke. Shirley Gassman, with four of her grandchildren, presented a map of where the line would be in relation to their farm near New Prague. She noted the line would pass over highly productive land. She asked that the two daycares operating near her home be taken into consideration.

Gassman and others had concerns of how the lines would affect the environment and the health of families, children waiting for buses and the chances of it causing a recurrence of cancer. There were also concerns about the electromagnetic fields and the possibility of shocks if near grain bins or electric fences.

Ek said the lines were built to minimize shocks, although he did caution farmers and others about grounding equipment. He and Poorker said there were some issues raised that would require further study.

Ek noted the state has hired a third party, Barr Engineering, to be an independent consultant.

Steve Huseby, an electrical engineer who lives in the area, stated this was a complex project and there would be no winners. He asked why there wasn't an electrical engineer to answer questions.

You owe us to have someone who can answer these questions

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