Winonans breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when CapX2020 representative Tom Hillstrom announced, at a meeting held down in the town of Houston, that the preferred Mississippi River crossing site for their proposed high voltage power lines was – may I have the envelope – Alma! The fifteen-story power lines might have marched from approximately Wilson down Blackberry Road into Pleasant Valley, past the Bridges Golf Course, over Highway 61, and then across the river at the East End Boat Club Harbor, presenting a charming view for miles in every direction while raining dead birds down on our heads during seasonal migrations (as some have warned). Not in our backyard, thank God!
The meeting was held in the Houston American Legion Hall and moderated by our own Senator Sharon Ropes whose discretion dictated, apparently, a location far away from those who would be most affected by the announcement. This seems strange, but given the outcome of the meeting, I won’t complain.
It should be pointed out, however, that this was only a battle in a war whose end is still far from sight. Mr Hillstrom freely admits that CapX2020 could change its fickle mind between now and November and, in any case, its recommendation has only advisory status with the real authority here, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. It is not yet time to spur the old war horse home and turn him out to pasture.
Meanwhile, the folks who live in Minnesota across from the Alma crossing have not demobilized. Their state representative, Steve Drazkowski, has sent us a news release to the effect that there is another possible route for the CapX lines. That would be right down Hwy 52 south of Rochester, and then east along I-90 to Wisconsin, an eminently sensible route along corridors already owned by the state, which would not require any further expensive acquisition of right-of-way nor spoliation of scenic field, wood, and hill.
Drazkowski relates that it was thought that the Minnesota Department of Transportation objected to this route but that he has been in contact with the transportation commissioner, who assures him that it is not so. A committee will be formed to analyze the situation, and Drazkowski himself will have a seat on it.
So the plot thickens. The Hwy 52/I-90 route actually does make good sense, but one gets the idea that the process resembles a game of pinball much less than the sensible weighing of alternatives. Winonans should remain vigilant.