America’s Smartland Series: Regional Best Practice
Great Northern Transmission Line
Although the Great Northern Transmission Line will not cross tribal areas, it will come near areas belonging to the Red Lake Nation. Minnesota Power worked closely with the Red Lake Nation to ensure their lands would not be adversely affected by the new transmission line. The Red Lake Nation appreciated the outreach to such an extent that they filed a letter of resolution in support of Minnesota Power’s proposed Blue Route and International Border Crossing for the Transmission Line. The Red Lake Nation instead opposed proposed routes by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, because their proposals affected tribal lands and their plans did not involve consultation with tribal leaders. Minnesota Power had no parties to the docket opposing their plans for the Great Northern Transmission Line. According to Daryl Maxwell, Department Manager of Hydro Interconnections at Manitoba Hydro, Minnesota Power did a “fabulous job of collaborating with the public” because they “truly cared about what stakeholders had to say and listened.”
The presidential permitting process required for international border is not new. Nevertheless, the cooperation between Minnesota’s Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in this instance is unique. The state and federal governments came together to ensure transparency and efficiency by conducting public meetings and co-managing the drafting of the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. This cooperation allowed the project to get off the ground rapidly. Bill Storm, Environmental Review Manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, “encourages applicants to submit their proposed application prior to filing a final application,” so that the state can work with companies to develop the best routes. He encourages other states to consider this approach to make transmission projects more streamlined. According to Storm, part of the success for this Project can be attributed to Minnesota Power “having a lot of community input before the process started” and communicating back and forth with the Minnesota Department of Commerce for 18 months before filing a formal application. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the Great Northern Transmission Line route permit in February 2016. Formal approvals are currently pending before the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), whose consent is required because the project will cross an international boundary. The U.S. DOE is helping to facilitate and fast track this process. Usually, transmission line projects can take around a decade to complete. Pending formal approval, construction is planned to begin for the Great Northern Transmission Line in 2017 to be completed in the 2020.
On the Canadian side, Manitoba Hydro cleared an extensive hearing process that resulted in a favorable outcome for construction of the transmission line. Manitoba Hydro is working with the provincial and federal governments to develop routes. It is expected that construction in Manitoba will be relatively easy because it is a more populated region, compared to the more rural Northern Minnesota.
Manitoba Hydro and Minnesota Power found that regional and international cooperation were vital for this project. David Moeller, Senior Attorney for Minnesota Power encourages policymakers to “not let geographical boundaries prevent us from coming together for broad solutions, North American solutions.”
2-28-2017 Presentation – Daryl Maxwell & David Moeller
For More Information Please Contact:
Department Manager, Hydro Interconnections
Environmental Review Manger
Minnesota Department of Commerce