by George Thompson, Reporter and Farmer 
The two regional utility companies hoping to build a proposed 435 KV high voltage electrical transmission line between Big Stone and Ellendale, N.D., will be in town next week with a proposed project update.
Last October, Montana Dakota Utilities and Otter Tail Power Co. held an open house in Webster where they unveiled a three-state study corridor to run a 150-175 mile line depending on the route taken.
The initial study area took in parts of five counties in South Dakota as well as three in Minnesota.
In Day County, this study corridor covered all but the northeast quadrant of the county, a smaller corridor south of Waubay to Webster plus another strip in the northwest corner. That study corridor was developed though government agency feedback, electronic and field data and engineering considerations like existing rights of way, plus survey and natural division lines, populated areas, public and private airports and natural features.
The preliminary route the utilities have proposed runs from the Big Stone power plant west to Groton, but dips south of Webster and Hwy. 12 to go through the southern tier of Day County townships. On the west side of the county, it takes several jogs where it splits with one alternate route running north to Britton and then west to Ellendale. The other alternate route runs to Groton, then angles northwest to Hwy. 281 and then straight north into Ellendale.
The $300-$340 million project would begin construction in 2016 and be in service by 2019. It would also include new substations in Big Stone and Ellendale which aren’t included in the cost estimate.
Company officials say the new transmission line would bring power to metropolitan markets to the east, improve reliability and capacity of the regional power grid and enable the integration of renewable energy (wind farms) into the system and create jobs.
In 2011, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) approved the BSSE transmission line as one of 17 important multivalue projects.
The project still needs state and county permits. It will also require an environment impact statement if crossing federal lands.
The Webster open house is set for 11:30 a.m.- 1 p.m. at The Galley where public feedback will be taken and future project phases discussed.
This is one in a series of five open houses to be held next week. Other meetings are in Groton on Feb. 25, Britton and Ellendale on Feb. 26 and Milbank on Feb. 27 from 5:30-7 p.m.