Minnesota Power built a 220-mile-long, 500-kV transmission line in northern Minnesota. The line, which imports hydropower from Manitoba, crosses the Canadian border into Minnesota and connects to a new substation near Grand Rapids.
Two critical permits were required: a Presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy and a route permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Because an Environmental Impact Statement was needed for both permits, the DOE and the Minnesota Department of Commerce decided to reduce duplication of effort by jointly completing a single EIS for the project.
The agencies selected Barr’s team to provide third-party environmental review and prepare the EIS. Barr conducted studies of water bodies, wetlands, vegetation, and wildlife, and oversaw studies of economic, cultural, and related considerations.
At the heart of the EIS were GIS technologies, which we harnessed to analyze in detail the impacts associated with multiple potential routes for the transmission line. With its ability to represent massive amounts of data visually, GIS allowed us to embed charts, tables, and maps in the EIS document, which in turn helped regulators and the public compare more than 40 route variations and understand the advantages and drawbacks of each.
The Presidential and route permits were issued in 2016, and construction began in 2017. The Great Northern transmission line began delivering power in 2020.