Do You Have Transmission Concerns? Let Us Know!

Because clean energy transmission is important to the future of our rural communities, it’s important to us. That’s why we’re working overtime to answer your questions and address your concerns. A big part of this work is having frank discussions with developers.

Recently I accompanied Scott Skokos (co-author of this article) and Don Morrison of Dakota Resource Council to a meeting with representatives from Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU) to discuss the MVP-6 transmission line. This route will begin near Big Stone, in North Dakota, and end near Ellendale, South Dakota. We focused on three major issues: Landowner best practices, environmental considerations, and treatment of cultural resources.

We opened the meeting by sharing a list of concerns that have been common among many of the new MVP Transmission lines. We also listened. MDU stated the questions they hear most all involve the line’s impact on farming operations. They have responded by using monopole structures, and moving these structures further into farmer’s fields to allow large farming equipment to circumvent the transmission structure.

The conversation then shifted to the leasing process and how often eminent domain is used. Eminent domain is a last resort, and should be used only rarely. MDU agreed, explaining this tool hasn’t been used since the early 1980s.

A 98% cooperation rate (where landowners voluntary agree to an easement) is expected on the MVP-6 line. By comparison, a 90% cooperation rate is a typical benchmark of success in large-scale transmission projects similar to MVP-6. MDU’s success is due to the company’s relationship with North Dakota residents, and the fact that they have been operating in ND, SD, and MT for over 90 years. Landowners trust them.

We then asked MDU about their strategy for mitigating environmental issues. MDU discussed working closely with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to mitigate any concerns, such as impacts to raptures, waterfowl, and Whooping Cranes. MVP-6’s preferred route, which MDU and Otter Tail Power released in July, intentionally avoids sensitive environmental areas.

The conversation then turned to MDU’s approach to the preservation of cultural resources. On this particular project MDU has contacted North Dakota and South Dakota State Historical Societies as well as tribal stakeholders along the route, and has hired local specialists to survey the line for important locations such as historic sites and artifacts.

This meeting allowed us to pass on concerns, learn more, and ensure that our utilities are committed to working with the landowners and communities affected by new transmission projects. We found that MDU follows many of our Transmission Principles.

Because they have, there has been little controversy in the development of this project. By involving landowners early and often, negotiating rather than using eminent domain to get easements, and avoiding culturally and environmentally sensitive areas, MDU is setting a positive example for other utilities to follow.

Did we leave something out? Pass along any questions or concerns you might have. Call me at the Center for Rural Affairs, 402.687.2103 ext 1028 or email johnathanh@cfra.org.