Watts News
 Published for the members of North Itasca Electric Cooperative
VOL. 22 NO. 5  -  May 2019

CEO Report


Hands down, we have the best employees watching over our cooperative! Thank you all!

As I was playing bean bag toss with a group of friends the other night Ė getting royally schooled by one team, I might add Ė I was explaining what was going on at the cooperative. Right now, beyond the industry changes we are facing, political pressure and other surprises here and there, we are building a substation. Iíve written about our Scenic Substation in the past, the project recently got my attention again.

In roughly 2016 North Itasca Electric, through a system study, decided we had to build a substation down around the Olí Scenic Highway. We purchased land from Itasca County to place this substation. For the purchase to happen, Itasca County had to have approval from the Department of Natural Resources, legislation had to be written, and the governor eventually had to sign off on the purchase. Lo and behold, we have all of that.

Next, we had to run environmental tests to federal standards to be able to secure loan funds for the project. That was also approved. At this point we started to work and build at the site; all our permits were in place and life was grand.

This March we were told to stop work at the site, we needed to be approved by the Environmental Quality Board. Iíll admit, I had never heard of the EQB, or how we are now at their mercy.

So where am I going with this? Iím here to tell you, itís a good time to be a cooperative member-owner. I reached out to members on the EQB to better understand what happened and if there was a way to continue work. I found out Great River Energy was the entity being reviewed for the 69 kV transmission line they plan on building to the site. I was able to work with our engineer and GRE to better explain that we are not a continuing action (the reason we were told to stop) but a whole different project. We need to get equipment installed in the field prior to next winter, we could have difficulties in that area otherwise.

I have been able to develop relationships with DNR personal, EQB members, GRE, and Star Engineering. We have had significant help from Rep Julie Sandstede and Sen David Tomassoni, who both have been willing to contribute wherever they could. Why is this important? We all are working together trying to find the path to better serve the members of North Itasca Electric Cooperative.

Unfortunately, there arenít simple answers. But there is teamwork, and thatís what itís all about! We will resolve this bump in the road, and continue the work in time to best serve North Itasca Electric.

Maybe this is why I didnít do so hot at the bean bag toss that night? Seems like a good excuse!

By your side,

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