Xcel Energy and ITC Midwest applied to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for a certificate of need and route permit for a proposed 345 kV transmission line running from the Huntley substation near Winnebago to the Wilmarth substation in Mankato.
As a third-party consultant for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Barr prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement that guided the state’s route selection process for the proposed powerline. The EIS included evaluation of five route alternatives, 19 route-segment alternatives, and three alignment alternatives. Assessing the alternatives required conducting a technical review of a range of complex issues involving human-health impacts, property values, socioeconomic concerns, wetlands, wildlife, and threatened and endangered species.
To assist the public and regulators in comparing routes and understanding the advantages and drawbacks of each, Barr made extensive use of GIS technology. We developed a resource-data-analysis plan listing more than 100 spatial data sets, and then used GIS tools and custom Python scripts to quantify natural resources in and near the corridors being considered. The resulting graphics-based EIS featured multiple GIS maps and figures highlighting the issues most critical to routing.
The final EIS was made available in April 2019, and the route permit was issued by the PUC four months later. Construction began in spring 2020; the line is slated to begin delivering electricity by the end of 2021.