WALKER - Great River Energy's proposal to install a new power line from the north Crow Wing County line to Longville to improve electric service at Longville has spawned multiple lawsuits in Cass County District Court in recent months.
Great River Energy spokespersons have reported at Cass County Board meetings that current power lines to Longville are running mostly at capacity. The new line would increase available electric service for the Longville and Boy River areas.
After receiving strong public opposition to routing the line parallel to County State Aid Highway 54, Great River Energy chose an alternate route, which mostly goes through county-administered land. It does, however, cross some private properties closer to Longville.
Great River Energy filed a petition with the court July 11 to condemn portions of properties in private ownership under right of eminent domain to complete the line.
Aug. 29, Judge David Harrington ruled Great River Energy had followed required procedures and approved its petition for condemnation, ruling the taking of the easements necessary for a public use.
Harrington appointed Doug Zaske of Heartland Realty, Jake Howard of Coldwell Banker, Brian Hanson of Leech Lake Realty and James Nichals of Coldwell Banker to serve in determining the amount of damages, which may be suffered by the taking of the easements.
Results of the appraisal commission's work are still ongoing, according to the latest court record entries on this file.
Harrington required Great River Energy to deposit with the court or pay directly to the owners the amount of the approved appraised value of the easement area and granted immediately upon payment transfer of title and possession of the easement to Great River.
He also granted Great River Energy authority to enter easement areas to make surveys and examine the property relative to the condemnation process.
Owners of property named along the transmission line route Great River Energy now has the right to condemn against include Philip and Ann Blott, Michael and Colleen Burgoyne, James and Jennifer Lewis, Gregory Michael, Sharon Spies, Jeff Redberg, Scott and Cheryl Reed, David A. Shadegg, National Bank of Kansas City, Cass County and Trus Joist Weyerhaeuser.
Any of these property owners may reach agreement to sell an easement without condemnation procedure. The court ruling permits Great River Energy to condemn against any of those properties where owners fail to reach a direct agreement with the electric company.
Philip Blott filed a lawsuit July 10 against Great River Energy seeking to halt all surveying and clear-cutting along the route. In that suit, Blott states a 190-year-old cedar tree already was cut for survey purposes. He cites a variety of comments, including some from Minnesota DNR, regarding natural environment sensitivity in that area.
His suit states the current route will have the greatest environmental impact of any previously discussed.
That suit is still pending, with Harrington having taken arguments presented through Sept. 12 under advisement. Judges generally have up to 90 days to rule on testimony presented in court.
Oct. 4, Cass County was served with a lawsuit Blott filed against the county environmental services department and Great River Energy.
Blott maintains in his suit that Cass County land use ordinance regulations should apply to power line corridor installations and seeks a court ruling on whether the land use ordinance should be applied to the Great River Energy transmission line.
If the court determines the land use ordinance should apply, Blott seeks a court order to require the county to enforce the ordinance against the power company.
Prior to filing the suit, Blott's attorney, Steven M. Baker of Walker, obtained a letter from Cass County Planning Director Paul Fairbanks in which Fairbanks said the Great River Energy transmission line project is not subject to the Cass County land use ordinance and confirmed Great River Energy has not submitted any applications to the county environmental services department for said project.
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