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Hydroelectric power plan discussed by Beltrami County Board

BEMIDJI - It’s still years off, but a massive project that will bring hydroelectric power from Canada was among those items discussed by the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The undertaking - called the Great Northern Transmission Line - is being directed by Minnesota Power. Jim Atkinson, a representative of the company, spoke to the board ahead of their regular meeting.

Northern Beltrami County could be home to a portion of the power line’s route - to its financial benefit.

“We do get tax revenue from transmission lines. … and it’s pretty significant,” County Administrator Kay Mack said.

How significant?

“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 per mile, per year in personal property taxes,” Atkinson said. “Keep in mind that this is as large as any transmission line in Minnesota, and really it’s as big as anything in the midwest.”

In bringing hydroelectric power from Manitoba Hydro, the line would be just one part of Minnesota Power’s efforts at diversifying power sources, Atkinson said.

The line will transmit 500 kilovolts of electricity. For those not electrically inclined, the structures to be built are of the four-legged variety, as opposed to smaller, 345 kilovolt lines commonly seen on the roadside. Currently, one such line is being constructed along Interstate 94, running south from St. Cloud.

“That’s a big one, but it’s not as big as the one we’re talking about,” Atkinson said. “The ones we’re talking about would probably occupy an area of about 50-feet by 50-feet.”

Public input meetings have already been held, Atkinson said, but the project is just exiting the planning stage. Construction isn’t expected to begin until 2017, and the line must be completed by June 1, 2020.

“We’ve had a lot of questions about whether people can get their power from us, instead of whatever co-op they’re buying from,” he said. “And unfortunately the answer is no, because we don’t make service territories, that’s the (Minnesota) Public Utilities Commission.”

All of the Red Lake Indian Reservation has been exempted from any possible route the line will take, as have several large swaths of land set aside for conservation. But Beltrami County will almost surely cede some of its acreage for the line.

“We’ve got plenty of land for you,” District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick said.

And plenty of time.

“Could you get it on the agenda for 2018?” District 2 Commissioner Joe Vene quipped.

Other business:

-- The board approved raising agricultural lease rates, at the recommendation of the Beltrami County Department of Natural Resource Management. The rate is currently $15 per acre, and will be raised to $16.50 and $18.50 per acre for 2013 and 2014, respectively.

-- Approved the county’s appraisal of tax-forfeited lands, to be sold in June. The parcels, which will be published in the county’s newsletter, will be auctioned off at 10 a.m. June 7 in the Beltrami County Board Room. They include lands in Alaska, Eckles and Port Hope townships, as well as in the cities of Bemidji and Kelliher.

-- Approved a starting annual salary of $72,500 for Becky Secore, who will become the Beltrami County Social Services Director following the retirement of the previous director after 28 years. The board also approved vacancies for one nurse and one social worker to be filled in the county’s Health and Human Services Department.

-- Accepted a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Service to allow social service workers in Beltrami County to recruit adoptive and foster care families. The grant, which includes no county dollars, totals $3,132.

-- Approved a contract for $32,385 with Springsted Inc., for an employee classification and compensation study. Springsted will evaluate wage, salary and benefit levels for all county employees.

-- Extended an update to the Beltrami County Comprehensive Water Management Plan at the request of Environmental Services Director Bill Patnaude. The plan, currently in its fourth generation, will expire in May. The extension will allow an additional two years for the update of the plan, originally implemented in 1998.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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