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County commissioners grant easement to Enbridge

The Hubbard County Board approved a right-of-way and perpetual easement to Enbridge Energy this week.

"Enbridge is proposing to install Line 3 replacement pipeline that predominantly follows the western edge of Hubbard County, then turns east and goes along the southern border towards Duck Lake and then down into Wadena County," County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier told commissioners at their March 20 meeting.

Enbridge calculates it will utilize about 79 acres of tax-forfeited land in Hubbard County, Lohmeier continued. The easement value is $161,557.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has not approved the route yet, he noted, "but Enbridge is hoping to get started on this project as soon as they do, so they're trying to get these easements in place ahead of time. If the PUC does not approve the route that's been proposed, this easement would become null and void. We would keep the $161,557, and wherever the new route ends up going, they would have to secure easements for that."

"So it's kind of a no-brainer," Board Chair Cal Johannsen said.

"On this one, you get the dollars either way," replied Lohmeier.

If the route is approved, there will be additional easements in the county.

"There will be two temporary work space easements and then a forest road access lease, which totals roughly another $83,000," Lohmeier said.

Johannsen asked how the land values were determined. "I'm assuming these 79 acres will never grow timber again. It'll be cleared and left open," he said.

The land was calculated at $2,600 per acre, Lohmeier explained. "For the easement, it's actually 125 percent of that land value."

According to Lohmeier, the temporary work spaces along the pipeline route will be allowed to grow vegetation again. Their values were based on 50 percent of $2,600 per acre.

Enbridge will access the pipeline via the forest roads. "Most of them will be using existing trails through the woods, but occasionally they'll need to push in a new road to get to the pipeline," Lohmeier said. Any timber taken out will also be priced and paid to the county land department.

"It's kind of jumping the gun," County Commissioner Dan Stacey said.

"Yeah, but the money's ours no matter what happens," replied Johannsen. "I don't know how we can look a gift horse in the mouth and not take it."

County Commissioner Char Christensen asked what would happen if the PUC approved the route but the county denied the easement.

"I assume that we would go to court," Lohmeier said. "The PUC would be fighting Hubbard County as far as where that pipeline would go. In most cases, it would be through condemnation that they would put that pipeline where they felt it was best to go."

The easement was approved 4-0, with County Commissioner Ed Smith absent.

In related business, the board:

• Approved timber appraisals for an April 9 timber auction.

• Applied to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to host an AmeriCorps member from the Minnesota GreenCorps.

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