Public meetings planned on power line between Iron Range, central Minnesota

A closeup of a high-voltage power line
High-voltage transmission lines, part of the CapX2020 project, tower over I-94 near Clearwater, Minn.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The public has a chance to weigh in on a proposed powerline from northern to central Minnesota. 

Minnesota Power and Great River Energy want to build the 180-mile, high-voltage line that would run from the Iron Range to Benton County, then along two different routes to substations near Becker.

The proposed Northland Reliability Project is one of several new high-voltage power lines utilities want to build across the Upper Midwest over the next several years.

“It's needed primarily because of the transition from mostly fossil fuel baseload generators to much more geographically diverse renewable sources of energy,” said Jim Atkinson, environmental and real estate manager for Duluth-based Minnesota Power. “So really, to get the power from where it's being made when it's been made to where it's needed.”

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State regulators will hold a series of public meetings this week on the proposed project in Hill City, Ironton, Brainerd, Pierz, Clear Lake and Sauk Rapids. A virtual meeting is planned for noon on Friday.

The input will help decide what should be covered in an environmental review. The public also can suggest changes to the route, Atkinson said.

A few people have submitted comments raising concerns about the powerline’s potential impact on farmland, property values and wildlife.

Once the environmental review is done, the Public Utilities Commission will hold more public hearings before deciding whether the project can move forward, likely late next year. If approved, the transmission line is expected to be operating by 2030, Atkinson said.