Draft EIS details impacts of proposed wind farm
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement released late last month details the potential impacts of a wind farm that touches Steele, Dodge and Olmsted Counties.
Dodge County Wind, LLC has submitted requests to the state of Minnesota that would allow construction of a 170 MW wind farm of up to 68 turbines that would be located in Dodge and Steele County and terminate at a substation near Byron in Olmsted County. The majority of the turbines would be located in Dodge County.
Before construction can begin, Dodge County Wind needs to obtain three state permits – a Certificate of Need, a Site Permit and a Route Permit.
Most of the controversary about the project has centered around the route of the transmission lines.
When they first submitted their applications, Dodge County Wind proposed two possible routes for the transmission line, designated A and B. Both of those routes went from a Dodge County substation through the southern, primarily rural, area of Dodge County before moving northward to connect to the Byron substation. Earlier this year the Public Utilities Commission asked Dodge County Wind to consider two additional routes that would more directly follow existing electric lines. These routes were designated C and D.
Depending on the route finally chosen the transmission line would be between 21 and 26 miles and run from a new collector substation south of Claremont to the Byron substation.
Routes C and D go through residential and commercial areas in both Dodge Center and Kasson and were opposed by residents whose homes and businesses fell within the right-of-way of the lines. State law sets limits as to how close to a transmission line a building can be located.
The draft EIS determined that there were no homes and five buildings that could be displaced by Route A. For Route B there is one home and five buildings in the anticipated right-of-way.
Those numbers increased for routes C and D. For Route C there was the potential for displacement of six homes and 55 non-residential buildings. For Route D the numbers were 34 homes and 16 non-residential buildings.
Other negatives to C and D, the Draft EIS determined, were that route C would conflict with operations of the railroad and the Dodge Center Airport and route D with the airport operation.
It was also determined that Route C would substantially alter the aesthetics of downtown Dodge Center and Kasson and Route D would alter the aesthetics of the Kasson-Mantorville school complex. Two historic properties are also located adjacent to the anticipated right-of-way in downtown Kasson.
The Draft EIS also anticipated that following either Route C or D would double the cost of the project.
In all areas considered, the impacts of Routes A and B were considered minimal or minimal to moderate.
Because of the impacts, the writers of the Draft EIS declined to move forward with a full analysis of Routes C and D.
Regarding the actual wind turbines, Dodge County Wind is proposing up to 68 turbines located within an area of 52,085 acres. While there would be some turbines in Steele County, the majority would be in southern Dodge County. Dodge County Wind also presented some alternative turbine locations in case there were unanticipated obstacles.
The Draft EIS provides a review of all aspects of the project but does not make recommendations.
Copies of the document can be viewed at public libraries in Owatonna, Dodge Center, Kasson and Rochester. They can also be viewed online from the Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission websites.
Two public information meetings will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Minnesota Wi-Fi Performing Arts Center, 101 16th St. NE, Kasson. The first session will be at 1 p.m. and the second at 6 p.m.
Written comments on the Draft EIS will be accepted through Friday, Aug. 30.
Comments can be sent to Suzanne Steinhauer, Environmental Review Manager, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 280, St. Paul, MN 55101; emailed to email@example.com, submitted online at mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities or by fax at 651-539-0109.
Following the close of public comments on the Draft EIS, a more formal public hearing before an Administrative Law Judge will be held in September. The Final EIS is expected to be released in early November with the Administrative Law Judge’s report submitted to the PUC in mid-December for a final decision on the project.