Construction begins on 162-mile transmission line

Farm Forum

Major construction started last month on a 162-mile transmission line from Big Stone South to Ellendale, N.D.

As of last week, 6.2 percent of the 755 foundations were complete, said Chris Oehler, vice president of public relations for Otter Tail Power Co., based in Fergus Falls, Minn. Work has started on the east side of the line.

“They started constructing foundations in June,” Oehler said.

Otter Tail is one of two partners in the project, the other being Montana-Dakota Utilities, based in Bismarck, N.D.

The undertaking was several years in the making, first having been proposed in 2008. It is expected to cost between $293 million and $370 million.

“There was a long permitting process, a long planning process,” Oehler said. “That involved many public meetings, long before we had a route. It just involved talking with people in that general area (about) what would work.”

The line is set to be operational in 2019.

Once it’s up and running, customers will notice increased reliability and capacity, Oehler said. As households rely more and more on electric appliances, more is asked of the electric grid.

“Hopefully, a customer right there wouldn’t see a big change, because this line would have helped us keep up with increased use in electricity,” Oehler said. “People are building bigger homes. They have more televisions in their homes. What if we have, all of a sudden, electric cars that need to be charged?”

The new line will be able to more easily transmit power from renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, Oehler said. There are a few wind farms in the area and even more are proposed, he said.

While construction is underway, people along the route — which goes through Grant, Day and Brown counties in South Dakota and ends in Dickey County in North Dakota — will see crews working, according to the project’s website.

The project’s headquarters are in Webster, which is where crews and materials will be based for the next three years.

“It’s a good opportunity for Day County,” Tom Sannes, president of the Webster Area Development Corp, previously told the American News. “Anytime that we can have industry locate in our area for an extended period of time there should be, and I expect, economic advantages. You never know what can spin off with these types of projects. You never know what may happen.”

Otter Tail Power and Montana-Dakota Utilities will pay an estimated $535,000 to $755,000 in annual property taxes to Day County, according to the development corporation.

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For more information and to see an interactive map of the project’s progress, visit

Project timeline:

• 2008: Project first proposed, planning begins

• 2012 to 2014: Environmental review and permitting

• 2012 to 2016: Engineering design and right of way procurement

• 2016 to 2019: Construction

• 2019: Transmission line goes live

Source: Big Stone South to Ellendale website