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third-party EIS services for high-voltage transmission line

third-party EIS services for high-voltage transmission line
Minnesota Department of Commerce

Environmental Impact Statements meant to be understood

In 2006, Great River Energy and Xcel Energy proposed the largest high-voltage transmission line in Minnesota in more than 25 years: the Brookings-to-Hampton CapX2020 345 kV line. The line begins at the state’s western border near Hendricks, Minnesota, and ends about 235 miles to the southeast, out-side the Twin Cities metro area near Hampton. The utilities proposed two possible routes for the transmission line—one preferred and one alternate.

During the scoping period, more than 50 additional routes were proposed by the public and state agencies. As a third-party consultant for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Barr performed a technical review of 63 route alternatives. The EIS included the analysis of a range of complex environmental issues involving wetlands, wildlife, cultural resources, threatened and endangered species, and human-health impacts. The analysis required gathering more than 40 statewide and local GIS datasets and collecting and verifying additional data via field review.

GIS (geographic information system) scripts developed by Barr were used to perform analysis of more than 40 environmental issues, accounting for and comparing the impacts of all 63 routes. The EIS presented this data in both text and graphical format to increase readers’ understanding of the complex information, a strategy that received positive comments from both regulators and the public.

The route permit was filed in March 2009; the final EIS was issued in January 2010. Following administrative hearings on the project, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission found the EIS adequate and issued a route permit for the project in July 2010. Construction began in 2012; the final segment of the line was placed into service in March 2015.