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Voltage transmission lines biggest concern of the public at Dodge County Wind hearing

The Dodge County Wind project held its first two public hearings Tuesday afternoon and members of the public brought forth many concerns they had for the project.

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Dodge County resident Aaron Tempel looks at the Dodge County Wind employees on the panel during the public hearing for the Dodge County Wind project in Kasson, Minn., Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Tempel asked why the project has to be here and not in the cities.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin
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KASSON, Minn. — The Kasson State Theater found itself filled more than it usually is on an early Tuesday afternoon as a public hearing was held for the proposed Dodge County Wind project that would have a footprint in Dodge, Mower, and Steele counties.

The hearing brought forth many residents where the main concern was voltage transmission lines and why they were being planned to be above ground and not below.

Mark Lennox, project lead for Dodge County Wind, said the high-voltage transmission lines would carry 161 kilovolts on a single circuit monopole structure. The lines would follow public road right-of-way, private easements, and existing T-line corridors from the main wind-generator site to a grid connection in Mower County.

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The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which will decide whether to award permits for the project, looks at numerous considerations including, “maintaining and efficient, cost-effective, and secure power supply and electric transmission infrastructure and compatibility with, and minimization of, environmental and human impacts.”

Dodge County resident Aaron Tempel, was the first to speak at the hearing and believed the high-voltage transmission line would be a greater danger to local eagle conservation than what Dodge County Wind has let on.

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“These voltage lines will impact the space eagles use to live. What other blatant disregard has this company done that they’re not sharing?” asked Tempel.

Alongside environmental impact on eagle conservation this project will have, Tempel also asked why the project has to be in rural America and not where energy is consumed the most.

“It’s time to create renewable energy where it’s consumed the most. Move it into the city. Mandate that new homes and businesses in large metro areas with millions upon millions of acres of rooftops, and have solar panels on their roofs and not have more space taken away here,” said Tempel.

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May 10, 2022, Kasson - A sizable crowd gathered at Kasson State Theater Tuesday afternoon for the public hearing held for the proposed Dodge County Wind project.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

Orin Johnson, supervisor for Vernon Township, located south of Kasson, brought forward comments he had received from township residents.

“What most people have come to talk to me about with their concerns is this transmission line and why it cannot be considered for underground development and not above ground,” said Johnson. “So I hope that factor will at least be taken into consideration by this board.”

Comments from the public at the hearing are intended to help Dodge County Wind, Public Utilities Commission, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce, look into potential human and environmental impacts of the project. In addition to that, public comments can be applied to correcting incorrect or missing information in any applications.

Members of the public can still submit public comments to Suzanne Steinhauer, environmental review manager for the Department of Commerce, via email, mail or fax through Wednesday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m.

Once the public comment period is closed. The next phase of the project proposal shifts to considerations of environmental impact scope and draft site permits by the Public Utilities Commission.

Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or ttollefson@postbulletin.com.
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