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Full steam ahead? Big Stone II Project receives favorable environmental review

On Aug. 13, the Western Area Power Administration issued the Record of Decision for the Big Stone II power plant and transmission project Environmental Impact Statement. The EIS was required in order for Big Stone II facilities to interconnect with Western's Granite Falls and Morris substations in western Minnesota.

"The EIS includes our commitments to give special consideration to the environmental and archeological elements in the Big Stone II Project footprint and meet all applicable environmental policies and regulations," said Mark Rolfes, Big Stone II project manager. "The Record of Decision completes our permitting phase and clears the way for us to begin construction on the power plant and transmission lines."

According to Rolfes, the EIS has spanned nearly four years during which public input sessions were held in several area communities. He says the process allowed Western to obtain and consider viewpoints from all parties interested in the Big Stone II Project.

He said a great deal of work remains before the project can begin construction. "While the project's permitting phase is behind us, we are at least one year from starting construction," Rolfes said. "The Big Stone II participants are now weighing individual financing options that would allow the project to go forward. We also have engineering plans to prepare and other regulatory filings to make. If all of these preliminary requirements can be completed on time, we expect to begin construction on the power plant in late 2010."

The current Big Stone II Project participants are Otter Tail Power Company, Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District, Missouri River Energy Services and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. Together, these entities serve more than one million people in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Montana.