A harsh winter often means a spring and summer of road repair. This leads to dollars and effort spent on road maintenance by counties each year.
During the regular county board meeting, Steele County Commissioners were offered a resolution for transportation funding from County Engineer Greg Ilkka. The resolution was pushed by the Association of Minnesota Counties, who want each county to pass resolutions that will urge state legislators to enact a funding package.
Minnesota counties maintain 30,742 miles of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) roads and 14,141 miles of county roads, totaling more than 30% of the state’s roadways. The total annual need is $1.084 billion over the next 25 years just to maintain the current CSAH and county road system, not including expansion.
“It’s just letting them know that we would like more funding if it could come our way,” Commissioner James Brady said of the resolution. “If we don’t ask for more funding, they might think we have enough.” The board voted unanimously to pass the resolution.
Commissioner Jim Abbe noted that he was glad the language used was politically neutral. “There’s a lot of partisanship going on at the state capital,” he said. “We’re not sending a message that we’re siding with the Gas Tax increase or anything like that. The message is that we need additional funding throughout the state.”
The session also included a presentation by Mike Weich of NextEra Energy who gave an update on the wind farm project moving forward. “It’s definitely been quiet this winter,” Weich said. “But as the weather changes so does the state’s aggressiveness in getting this going.”
Weich presented the county with an amended schedule for the timeline of the Dodge County wind farm project. “The state has looked at other transmission line routes that would take the line north towards Dodge Center and the airport and then head east.”
“The state wants to go through due diligence and look at every possible scenario so that’s why they came up with some alternatives and wanted us to study them, which we have,” Weich explained. “It’s to ensure that all the correct transmission lines have been studied.”
Now that they have determined a potential route, which is to move west to east in a rather straight line towards Byron, the project will be moving forward with a public hearing later this summer. “Everyone from the public will be invited to come and hear about the project and ask questions for the developer,” Weich said.
Following the public hearing will be an evidentiary meeting in which the information presented at the public hearing will be laid out and considered. “From then on, it’s just the administrative law judge taking his time and producing a report for the Public Utilities Commission,” Weich noted.
Before the end of the year they will produce the administrative law judge recommendation, which will detail the direction of the project and where it’s headed. “That pretty much tells you where we’re going,” Weich explained. “After the New Year, it’s really kind of a formality at that point.”
“Our target for the start of construction, when we’ll mobilize these crews, will be in May of 2020,” Weich said. “We’ll be done with the project around Oct. 1 of 2020.” There will be 170 megawatts in the transmission line. “We think we’ve designed a good route, a sensible route, and an environmentally friendly route and we still believe that will be the route the state chooses.”
Weich also added that NextEra will be meeting with the townships over the next few months to provide them with updates and details concerning the project.