The editorial page in today’s Northfield News says it all:

Good ideas and consequences

To the editor:

Here are some good ideas:

* Rice County commissioners rezoned 1,180 acres of prime farmland and wetlands along Interstate 35 to a highway commercial zoning designation. This can bring more money to the county.

* Farmers wanting to quit farming on the land can make a lot of money, to which they are entitled.

* Developers and businesses who want to take over the land can make a lot of money.

* New businesses can bring new jobs to the county.

* The county has a plan for responsible development.

* Input from the residents of the county is invited on the development plan.

Here are the problems:

* The Rice County commissioners have said development will bring in money for the county, but they have never said how to pay for it. Estimates to get started range from $20 million to $40 million.

* Over 50 percent of the soil in the development area will not handle development and must be replaced.

* No plan has been presented to cover the cost of necessary infrastructure.

* Farmers who want to continue to farm this land and homeowners who want to stay will be forced off their land by development pressures and unwelcome commercial neighbors. Many will lose a lot of money if the county says their pieces of the land will not be used for development, only related infrastructure, etc.

* Developers and businesses will ask for tax breaks.

* The cheapest development involves truck transfer facilities and large storage or display areas. Some of these will employ less than a dozen local people. The number of jobs per acre for these businesses will be small.

* The commissioners’ highway commercial zoning designation was not based on the county’s long-term development plan. When they realized what they had done, they quietly rewrote the plan. This is one of several instances where they violated their own laws. However, to date they have never held themselves accountable.

* City mayors and township board members, representing the majority of the citizens of the county, have objected to the many negative consequences of this plan. To date hundreds of questions and problems have been raised. Almost none have been answered, and few improvements have been made to the highway commercial plan. Local governments and citizens are being ignored.

* Numerous additional technical and legal problems with the highway commercial plan are now being raised, in writing, by concerned citizens committed to responsible and accountable government. More comments are encouraged, and must be submitted by Oct. 26 to the director of planning and zoning.

* More such development plans, that ignore the consequences to the citizens of the county, are starting to emerge. Whether residents of the county live near or distant from these development, in one way or another, all will pay for the benefit of a few.

Charles Skinner

A rezoning nightmare

To the editor:
As most people know, Rice County Commissioner Jim Brown made his move last November to rezone 1,100 acres of ag land along a three-mile strip of Interstate 35 — Minnesota Highway 19 on the north to Rice County Road 1 on the south — to highway commercial. Faribault, Dundas and Northfield, Bridgewater and Forest townships along with farmers and rural residents strongly objected. At one of the hearings, former Faribault City Councilor Fran Minnick called on the board to open up a smaller area to start out. Sounded like common sense to me.

The new county board approved a committee chaired by Gordon Kelley, under the guidance of RLK Kuusisto Consulting, to come up with a master plan by Dec. 31, when developers will begin rushing in. Plans now include shopping centers along with business and industrial parks and warehouses — a true hodge-podge.

RLK put together an Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR), available for public comment through Oct. 26. It is a set of 31 questions, designed to give information about the project that may have the potential for “significant environmental effects.” The document is available at Faribault, Northfield and Rochester public libraries, Rice County Zoning Office or the county Web site. Anyone who finds answers to the questions to be incorrect or incomplete should put it in writing to Rice County Director of Planning and Zoning Arlyn Grussing.

Questions will be answered and, one assumes, adjustments made or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ordered if citizens call for it.

It is a daunting task for an ordinary person to review a document of 54 pages plus maps and exhibits. I suggest each person look at the table of contents and find one or two questions to look at. For me, it is No. 18: Wastewaters. A continuous discharge wastewater treatment plant on Heath Creek (or Wolf Creek as an alternative) is a very offensive idea. Fortunately, discharging to already impaired waters (in this case Lake Byllesby) is not allowed, so other alternatives were listed. It looks like warehouses and other businesses will go in on their own septics to start out. That doesn’t sound great, either.

I am just starting on the traffic section. Planned level of service (LOS) at several intersections are rated very low. At full buildout, 103,325 traffic trips per day are projected for the area. The intersection of Highway 19 and Rice County Road 46 is rated “D.” On a scale of A to F for failing, that is not good. And, as one of a dozen residents who spoke at the planning commission public hearing regarding the AUAR said last Thursday night, what about air emissions?

I empathize more with farmers and residents who will be negatively impacted by this massive development and less with those few who are standing in line to sell for big money. I guess we know which group Commissioner Brown is listening to.

Stephanie Henriksen


Concerning French Lake

To the editor:
It appears another taxpayer fiasco is on the drawing board for Rice County, as if the ill-conceived hyper-squalor producing Interstate 35/Minnesota Highway 19 corridor isn’t enough to impair more surface waters, disfigure more landscape and threaten to raise county taxes to the realm of the metro area. Now comes the bold new plan for a 350-unit “Gated Community” on French Lake that will disrupt and destroy the very countryside that it uses to sell these McMansions in the first place!

What will the outcome of adding 300-plus houses be to a rural place where they don’t belong? How about for starters at least 700 more cars on rural roads and tens of thousands of more car trips per year adding congestion and deteriorating roadways even faster. Water quality will suffer for all because of the excavations as well as the usual years of massive noise that is never even considered by these metro speculators.

And all for what? So a developer can make a huge profit at the expense of taxpayers and Rice County’s quality of life. If these projects are allowed, Rice County will know that their planning and zoning department and elected officials are corrupt to the core and that it is only a charade to give the appearance of democracy.

Besides setting an apocalyptic precedent for years to come, this is urban sprawl at its worst, with no accounting of true costs.

Lawrence Morgan

Wouldn’t ya think that this District has learned something about massive boondoggle development, corporations at the public trough, and taxpayer and public coffers sucked dry?


As my EXhusband would say, “Goes to show you don’t think!”

What about “it’s for coal” don’t you understand?

It comes in from points west, like North Dakota and South Dakota, zips over to the 345kV ring around the cities, which, like a turnabout, shoots it out across the upgraded King-EauClaire-Arpin line, the Prairie Island-Byron line and the just announced Prairie Island-Roch-LaX line… a superhighway through Minnesota.

How many points does it take to discern a line? How many plants to discern a lie?


There’s the SW Minnesota Study with a listing of the coal plants to come on line…

SW MN coal plants.jpg

There’s the Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell.

There’s the announcement of 6 projects made possible by the TOBfH.
Download file

There’s the Big Stone II transmission application.

There’s the MTEP06 plan that says:

6.1 Regional projects or Study Areas of Focus:
? CAPX (Incorporates prior Northwest Area Exploratory Project) ? Three options are to
be pursued
1. Coal fields of North Dakota to Fargo to Benton County outside of the Twin Cities
2. Belfield, North Dakota (site of a new 500 MW coal plant) to Ellendale, South
Dakota to Big Stone area to Granite Falls to Blue Lake, Minnesota
3. Cross link from Ellendale to Fargo

There’s the “coal fields of North Dakota to Fargo to Benton County” line:
Northwest part 2 Fargo to Metro.jpg

There’s the Belfield NEW COAL PLANT to Ellendale to Big Stone II NEW COAL PLANT to Granite Falls to Blue Lake:
SW MN It's not for Wind map.jpg

Is something wrong with this picture?

Mercury Advisories.gif

Ah, yes, I think I’ll send this post off to Rep. Mike Beard, whose family, like mine, used to spend days off touring infrastructure. This really brought back memories of touring coal plants and dams!

RW h20.jpg

This is Red Wing’s new Twin Bluffs Water Treatment Facility — it’s the input into the city water system, damn, I wanted to see the output!

For some reason it’s not comforting to know that:

The raw water quality in the City of Red Wing contains radionuclides above the future maximum contaminant level, as set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health and US EPA. In addition to radionuclides, the raw water contains iron and manganese that can cause red and black staining throughout the distribution system… The recommended alternative was to construct two new treatment plants on sites where quality raw water could be found. These treatment plants would be capable of removing the radionuclides, as well as the iron and manganese.

Radionuclides???? Hmmmmmm… So that’s why my pups glow in the dark…

It was a great turn out, I guess I’m not the only infrastructure nut on the planet.

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They gave tours of the new plant, open only one month so far.

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The Red Wing water comes not from the river, but from wells 620 feet down, which sounds like the Jordan aquifer, not the Mt. Simon one that the Waseca gas is stored in! Whew! They add potassium permanganate and manganese sulfate, and it goes through a filter, and supposedly antracite and green sand filters out the iron and manganese, and radionuclides are filtered out with oxidized manganize. Every now and then, they pressurize backwash out the filters, let that settle and run that through the system again too, with the sludge going to the sanitary sewer system for treatment at the wastewater treatment facility. Is that where the radionuclides go? Another hmmmmm… All of this chemical adding used to be done “by hand” and now it’s all computerized, run off a PC up in the office with a yellow lab screensaver. The chemicals are parsed out in “The Chemical Room,” a room that reminded me of a milking parlor, clean, bright, and that strange sucking sound.

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It turned out Mayor Donna Dummer was in the group! Although I voted for her, I’ve never met her, and we had an email exchange on Friday on a city issue… funny how that works! Here she is, on the left, talking with the rest of the group, the gracious tour guide is on the right.

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Midway through the tour, we were joined by Councilman Gary Nordmark, the new At Large member. He said that next spring, the wastewater treatment plant, over by the Izaak Walton house and Barn Bluff, will be open for full tours. I can’t wait!

Got Gas??? Got Water???

October 15th, 2005

There’s a water theme this week, two open houses at water treatment plants!

First was the CenterPoint water treatment plant at the underground gas storage facility in Waseca. Nancy Prehn, my Waseca client, invited me down — doesn’t she look viscious, like Dick Day says?

Got Gas NP.jpg

They had a great crowd, a packed room on a rainy night. Not long after I got there, they wanted to quick pack everything up and head out the door! Here’s CenterPoint hiding the evidence!  But great cookies and bars!  And coffee to fuel the drive back home!

Got Gas CenterPoint.jpg

They have a treatment facility to handle the waste water that comes up with the gas as they pump it out of the underground storage. They used to dump it on the ground, and in 1998, after 30 years of dumping contaminated water on the ground, they now collect it in underground tanks and then suck it out with a big tank truck called the “gator.”  Why?  Because Nancy Prehn petitioned for an EAW and that started the ball rolling, resulting in this water treatment facility.  Without Nancy, it wouldn’t have happened, and they’d still be dumping out out all over the fields throughout the ~10 square mile area covering the 7 billion cubic foot natural gas storage dome.

Got Gas Gator.jpg

Then they dump it in a reservoir and run it through their filtering machines.

Got Gas System.jpg

Got Gas Schem.JPG

And remember, this is the site where Simon Industries wanted to build first a 46MW gas peaking plant, which was permitted, and then a 325MW gas plant, which seems to be stalled. WHEW! There’s been no application, no PPA, nothing other than a legislative exemption from Personal Property Tax.

Now and again clients are suprised by a bizarre self-destructive action of an opponent, in those rare moments when ugly truths are revealed. But as we say in transmission, “It’s all connected.” And as we all know, those with power are not interested in openness, equity or public interest!


Just yesterday, I received the American Transmission Company reply to the W.O.L.F. response to the ATC Motion to close the Arrowhead docket. It was mailed September 30… came by oxcart…my client received it today…

To look at the docket, go to this page and type in docket number 05-CE-113. At the next screen, click on the underlined docket number, then it goes to “Docket Summary” page, and go to bottom left and click on “Documents” for a whole bunch of filings, but mostly from Arrowhead #2 and #3.

ATC wrote a letter,Download file, reporting they were delighted to announce an agreement with Douglas County,Download file, which the Commission deemed a Motion to close the docket. We got notice, and responded to that Motion.

In W.O.L.F.’s Response,Download file, because the Agreement had not yet been made public, we had a simple argument:

Settlement agreements have an impact beyond the direct impact on the parties of the Agreement. In an administrative proceeding, the agency should not close a docket without first securing a copy of the Agreement for the file, assuring that all parties have been served with a copy of the agreement, and then the Commission must review the Agreement to assure that it addresses all issues pending. Intervenors other than those party to the Agreement must have an opportunity for review and comment, as must the general public, many of whom are affected landowners who likely did not or will not receive the largess of benefits that Douglas County will receive as a result of this Agreement. Because this Agreement is only a part of a much larger proceeding, the interests of Intervenors and the public interest must be taken into account. If, after review, the Commission determines that all issues are indeed addressed, that the Settlement Agreement is equitable, and has addressed issues in a manner that is not injurious to the public interest, then it may be appropriate to close the docket.

GASP! What a revolutionary concept!

Here’s ATC’s Reply: Download file

Lauren Azar.jpg
Lauren Azar

Here’s the best part — I cannot believe Lauren would write this and I’m still shaking my head:

Whether the Agreement is “equitable” or “in the public interest” is not an issue currently before the Commission and, is therefore, irrelevant to the Commission’s determination on whether to close this docket. (The Commission does not review and approve the agreements by which utiltities acquire rights-of-way to ensure they are “equitable” or “in the public interest.”)

Oh, really!?!

If I ruled the world, all agreements that let utilities have their way with the public would be PUBLIC INFORMATION and subject to public interest scrutiny.

Maybe the PSC will look at its own letterhead or the sign outside there on Whitney and realize that they’re the “PUBLIC SERVICE Commission.”