National Montessori Week - Happy Friday!

The Children's House - 2 hours 15 min ago
Spread the word about
“Within the child lies the fate of the
future.” –Maria Montessori

Categories: Citizens

Old Cat’s New Tricks

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 7:39pm

This is what I see whenever I sit down to eat something from a bowl.

Grandma Cat can tell the difference between the clinking sounds made in bowls or on plates. If she detects food being consumed from a bowl, she comes begging, hoping that it’s cereal, so she can have the leftover milk, or ice cream, so she can slurp the melt.

Tonight, despite a solid 15 minutes of begging, she got nothing, since I was eating some chicken chili. When I let her sniff them empty bowl, she gave me a look of equal parts disappointment and hurt, then padded away to the sis.

Categories: Citizens

National Montessori Week - Happy Thursday!

The Children's House - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 7:00am
Montessori is brain-based learning.Just ask a pediatric
Unknowingly, Dr. Maria Montessori, tapped into the very
structure of the human brain.
Neuroscientists, developmental
psychologists and pediatricians all
agree that the brain forms crucial
associations based on the very
same process of learning that Dr.
Montessori identified over a
century ago.

Dr. Steven Hughes-Good At Doing Things:
Categories: Citizens

US DOT Rail Study — HERE IT IS!!!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 5:37pm

Recently there was an AP article that flew around the country that mentioned the massive numbers of derailments projected, but the study was not linked in any of the articles I’d found, and oh was I looking.  Then I went searching around, made a few phone calls, and FINALLY, out of the blue, it appeared in my inbox today.

Who cares about some government study?  Well, with info like this, I do, and so glad to get it.  How’s this for starters:

And this, a chart of projected damages forecasted:And, drum roll please…. HERE’S THE STUDY:



Categories: Citizens

National Montessori Week - Happy Wednesday!

The Children's House - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 7:00am

Infancy through high school,
Montessori’s got it all!
Montessori is more than a pre-
school. There are Montessori
programs all over the world for
children from infancy through high
Take a look at the adolescent
curriculums used in two U.S.
Categories: Citizens

Historic Northfield & Author Susan Hvistendahl

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:11pm

As readers of Northfield’s Entertainment Guide know, local historic events can be just as interesting as current ones. Since 2007, Susan Hvistendahl has penned the “Historic Happenings” column, offering the reader a few moments of armchair time-travel to complement coverage of many arts and cultural entertainments available in Northfield and the surrounding area today. I consider that Hvistendahl has picked up the torch from the redoubtable late doyenne of local history, Maggie Lee, and so I was interested to learn that Maggie’sown columns and archival suggestions as sources for some “Historic Happenings” columns.

Recently, in partnership with the Northfield Historical Society, the Entertainment Guide has republished selected columns focused on town life in a compilation bearing the same name as the column.  (Hvistendahl served as editor, while Rob Schanilac and his staff handled the design, layout, and printing.) Recounted in Hvistendahl’s lively prose and illustrated throughout, this volume is one of three planned. Another on St. Olaf College and a third on Carleton College will be released later this spring, just in time for alumni celebrations.

Volume One is arranged by original date of column publication, and a helpful key at the beginning points the reader toward topics of interest. The real adventure, however is discovering new layers of facts and stories from Northfield’s past 150 years: man-eating lions, ax-wielding, temperance-promoting settlers, musicians, teachers, merchants, Jeopardy champions, sports stars, and an aspiring president parade through Northfield history and these pages.

Hvistendahl grew up in Brookings, South Dakota but moved to Northfield to attend St. Olaf College. Upon receiving her B.A. in Spanish, she married her Carleton College-graduate boyfriend and moved away from Northfield. Post-graduation she earned an M.A. in English from Iowa State University and taught freshman English there. Later, she taught Spanish through community education venues in New York State. She also launched a very successful freelance writing career–serving variously as a research assistant and interviewer for Roger Kahn (author of the acclaimed portrait of the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers, The Boys of Summer) and wrote a regular column for a local newspaper in Putnam Valley, New York.

Returning to Northfield in 2004, Hvistendahl began researching two local buildings owned by her brother, David Hvistendahl, at his request. From there, she was hired by the Northfield Historical Society to research local history for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2005, and in the course of this project she created a detailed timeline and laid the foundation of her successful column.

Our family met her in 2006, when we were looking for a skilled teacher of Spanish to give lessons to Julia. Here is an historic photo–from our family archive–of Susan from March 2007, taken in the meeting room of Village on the Cannon.

Historic Happenings is available at the Northfield Historical Society, Content Book Store, and the Entertainment Guide office; correspondence to Susan Hvistendahl can be addressed to her c/o the Entertainment Guide/By All Means Graphics,17 Bridge Square, Northfield, MN 55057.

Look for brand new”Historic Happenings” columns each month!

Until another Wednesday, wishing you well!



Categories: Citizens

URGENT – TOMORROW – HF 341 in Committee!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 10:01am

Tomorrow the House Jobs Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee will take up HF 341, see also SF 237, to provide an exemption from Certificate of Need for natural gas plants that sell power into the MISO market.

SAY WHAT?!?!?!

The Power Plant Siting Act, specifically Minn. Stat. 216E.04, Subd. 2(2) already gives natural gas plants a free ride by allowing “alternate review,” which is “review lite.”  For example, the “Simon Says” 325 MW natural gas plant that had been planned for Waseca would have been built.  The 700-800 MW Sunrise River Station by the Chisago sub would have been built.  WHY?  Should a community be subject to living with a HUGE natural gas plant without regulation?  Nope, no way, no how.  Plus who will pay for the transmission interconnection, and how will that be regulated, both “need” and routing… and then there’s eminent domain!  What’s the impact on Minnesota utilities and their service territory?

The biggest problem?  If it’s not regulated by the PUC, who handles it?  Counties.  What county has the expertise or resources to review and permit a power plant?  Most likely it’s as in Freeborn County, where they cut and pasted the project APPLICATION and called it an EIS!  Really!  Or look at Chisago County and the Sunrise River natural gas plant.  That’s not something that should be thrown at a local government.

Here are the Authors’ emails — contact them today:,,

Here are the Committee member emails — contact them today:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Please let them know how important it is that we continue to regulate natural gas plants.  A power plants is large, expensive infrastructure with large, costly impacts, and should only be built when and where needed, after a full Certificate of Need and Siting review.

Here’s an example of how it went in Waseca when they tried to bootstrap a larger plant onto an already approve very small plant — short version?  It didn’t go:

Blooming Grove Township — Sen. Dick Day shows his true colors

And in Chisago County where they tried to ram through a HUGE plant on the Sunrise River and pull out large amounts of water — short version?  It didn’t go:

LS Power’s Sunrise River plant voted DOWN!

Lent Twp voters say NO! to LS Power

LS Power’s Sunrise River Energy in the news

Report on Monday Chisago meeting

500+ give LS Power a piece of their mind

What about the Mesaba Project which has a site permit good until 2019, and which couldn’t demonstrate either “need” or that it would provide reasonably priced electricity — under this bill, a large natural gas plant could go up on that site without any further review!  More info HERE on Mesaba Project!

That’s what communities think of having a natural gas plant using their water, making noise, being lit up 24/7, and all for the profit of some absentee corporate owner:  Thanks, but NO THANKS!

Here’s the agenda for tomorrow:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

12:45 PM

Room: 10 State Office Building Chair: Rep. Pat Garofalo Agenda: Overview of natural gas issues in Minnesota.If you wish to testify on HF341, please contact Committee Legislative Assistant, Jonathan Fortner, at Bills: HF341 – (Swedzinski): Requirement to obtain certificate of need prior to construction of a natural gas plant generating electricity that is exported from the state eliminated. Here’s the full text of HF 341:
Categories: Citizens

National Montessori Week - Happy Tuesday!

The Children's House - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 7:00am
Public, private and charter.
Montessori is for ALL children!
In the U.S., there are 400+ public
and 4,000+ private Montessori
schools. Montessori is growing
and it’s for ALL children!
Learn more about Montessori from
the students and staff of Baltimore
Montessori Public Charter School.
Categories: Citizens

Special offer: An instructional video on how to ride slippery off-cambers

Mountain Bike Geezer - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 2:48pm

My Thick Skull Mountain Bike Skills ‘Holding a Line’ instructional series is available this week at a special price and with a special video bonus offer about how to get extra traction on slippery off-cambers:

Subscribe to my free Thick Skull MTB Skills/Mountain Bike Geezer newsletter and get:

  1. The free 6-part series, 'Light Hands, Heavy Feet': 17 mountain bike drills to develop the 'light hands' habit and make your riding more stable no matter what the terrain
  2. Exclusive how-to-ride related content every week that I don't post on my blog.

So do it. Get it through your Thick Skull.

The post Special offer: An instructional video on how to ride slippery off-cambers appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

City of Duluth’s parking services: Prompt, friendly, forgiving

Mountain Bike Geezer - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:54am

Back in late October of 2013, I spent a couple days mountain biking in Duluth, MN. My blog post: Duluth’s XC MTB trails just keep getting better. Here’s partly why.

What I didn’t blog  was on the day I met up with then IMBA Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson (he’s got a new job now) for a ride on the COGGS Piedmont trail, I got a parking ticket in the Canal Park lot near his office. I had paid for parking using the PayByPhone service but inadvertently paid for parking in stall #138 when I’d actually parked in stall #136.  As you can see, the stenciling on the pavement makes the  number 6 look pretty close to an 8:


I was irritated but the fine of $12 didn’t seem onerous so I planned to pay it.  I lost the ticket and promptly forgot about it.  But a few weeks ago I got a notice that my fine had grown to $45 and was about to be turned over to a collection agency. Previous notices had ended up in a pile of my aging mother’s unpaid medical bills that I was contesting.

So on Friday morning I visited the City of Duluth’s Parking Services web page and filled out their form with this: 

Hi, I was issued a parking ticket due to the poor numbering of a parking space/stall in a Canal Park parking lot. I mistakenly paid for stall #138 but I was actually parked in #136. I have the documentation that I paid to park that day since I used PayByPhone service. I have a photo of my car in the lot with the number #136 showing. Who can I talk to about this?

I really didn’t expect to hear from anyone but at 4 pm, I got this reply:

Dear Mr. Wigley: We would be happy to look into this. Could you send the vehicle’s license plate number or the parking ticket number? Thanks.


Matthew Kennedy, CAPP, CPP
Parking Manager
City of Duluth

I replied:

Hi Mathew, Thank you for the prompt reply. I’m impressed!  I should have attempted to resolve this sooner. The license plate # is [abc]. The parking ticket # is [xyz]. I’ve attached two photos and a PDF of the email/receipt from PayByPhone. Has the numbering (the stencil paint for #136 looks very much like #138) been fixed? I appreciate your willingness to consider what happened.

Mathew replied at 5:45 PM:

Dear Mr. Wigley: Ticket number 9030002018 has been dismissed and closed in our system as a one-time courtesy exception.

In your photograph that shows the space number, there are several leaves on the pavement, including one just above the number “6” and one that is resting within a gap in the stenciling for the number “6.” The latter leaf makes the number “6” look a bit like an “8.”

The photograph below, taken by the patroller at the time of ticketing, shows the number more clearly; the nearest leaf is just to the right of the “6.”

Our staff will double check the condition of the stenciling for this space number. In addition, each spring we check the striping and numbering on all of our parking lots.

Take care and have a wonderful weekend.


Matthew Kennedy, CAPP, CPP
Parking Manager
City of Duluth

Thank you, Mathew. I did have a wonderful weekend, in part because of you.

Subscribe to my free Thick Skull MTB Skills/Mountain Bike Geezer newsletter and get:

  1. The free 6-part series, 'Light Hands, Heavy Feet': 17 mountain bike drills to develop the 'light hands' habit and make your riding more stable no matter what the terrain
  2. Exclusive how-to-ride related content every week that I don't post on my blog.

So do it. Get it through your Thick Skull.

The post City of Duluth’s parking services: Prompt, friendly, forgiving appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

National Montessori Week - Happy Monday!

The Children's House - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
Someone said, “How children learn influences
who they will become”.
Alumni, tell us one thing you learned at Montessori
school that you still do today…

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me
and I remember. Involve me and I
learn.” –Benjamin Franklin

Will Wright, founder of “Sims”, said: “Montessori
taught me the joy of discovery…it’s all about
learning on your terms, rather than a teacher
explaining stuff to you”.

Montessori Mafia article
Categories: Citizens

Postcard: February 23, 2015

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 2:57pm

Categories: Citizens

Trapped in D.C.

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 5:38pm

My conference trip to Washington went well until this morning. I made it to D.C. without any problems, found the conference itself very useful and interesting, and enjoyed hanging out with friends and colleagues. With a forecast of snow for Saturday, though, I expected delays in getting home, even though the snow wasn’t really very heavy:

And that’s exactly what’s happened. My early-afternoon flight home was canceled, and the airline rebooked me for Sunday morning. (Though I was assured that the airports are shut down, I heard airplanes taking off just a few hours ago…)


So I went for a little trip over to DuPont Circle, one of the places in D.C. that I know slightly. I took the Metro, which is always fun:

I stopped in a burger joint to get lunch when I arrived at DuPont Circle. I was the last customer of the day: the girl behind the counter told me that the shop was closing "due to the bad weather." I ate a delicious cheeseburger and fries while watching one person after another ignore the sign on the door announcing the closure, walk in and up to the counter, and then be told that the place was closed.

Sated, I went down the street to Kramerbooks, an excellent indie bookstore. I couldn’t find the book that our waiter had recommended the night before, but I browsed for a while, then decided to find a coffeeshop to check email. Though I wanted something local and cool (Kramerbooks qualified on both counts, but I didn’t want to wait for a table!), I settled for a Starbucks, partly because the sidewalks were so awful that I didn’t want to walk very far. I saw people shoveling their sidewalks, but they were putting the snow in front of the next businesses over, not in the street!

Just after I got my order, the very crabby manager announced that he "had" to close the shop – due to bad weather. Why a coffeeshop has to close because of snow, I have no idea: he was doing a booming business. When I tried to take a picture of the scribbled sign in the window, he flipped it over so I couldn’t!

With two strikes against me, I decided to just head back to the hotel. On the way, I took a picture of the DuPont Circle fountain, since everyone else was, too:

Standing in the park, I noticed that it’s apparently part of the national park system, which means I’ve set a new personal record for national park properties visited in one year, at three – Yellowstone and Grand Teton last month, and now this one.

Then I took the train back to my hotel. The cars were packed with hockey fans and discomfited tourists, so it took a long time. And even though the sidewalks in Potomac Yard were awful, too, I enjoyed the walk through the snow – one of my few outings this winter in actual snowfall. The streets were even worse than the sidewalks:

I totally understand now why snow is such a disaster for cities any further south than, say, Philadelphia. They’re not ready for it and can’t handle it.

Apparently, neither can the airlines. When I got back to my room, I had a voicemail informing me that my Sunday-morning flight, too, had been canceled. Now I’m supposed to leave Washington on Sunday evening, getting back to Minnesota around midnight.

Sigh. Oh well. Like Chesterton said, an adventure is just an inconvenience rightly considered.

Categories: Citizens

Google Earth & Susquehanna-Roseland Xmsn

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 1:20pm

New Jersey gets a bad rap, people here in the Midwest have no clue.  People think of New Jersey, and they think of Newark (which has its good points, I really enjoyed officing there during the Susquehanna-Roseland hearing) which is a mess, vacant buildings all over the place, TALL vacant buildings…

And that’s where the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is, rolling a cart full of boxes back and forth from the R.Treat (right) to the BPU (big black glass smudged building under “Aug 2012″) in the snow was a joy:

Anyway, there’s more to New Jersey than that.  New Jersey where the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line crossed is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.  It’s a lot like northern Minnesota, granite and pine trees, stunning.  Turns out my mother spent time there in the Army, and afterwards she worked at the Franklin Hospital, I think owned by the Franklin nickle mine.

Google Earth maps are now showing the summer’s construction of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission project, and… OH… MY… DOG…

Here are photos from Stop the Lines in 2013 of new access roads through the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, Lake Hopatcong, NJ to build this monstrosity:

And just google that park for another perspective:

And the view from Headley’s Overlook and Lake Hopatcong:

Here’s Lake Mohawk, another example of bizarre transmission routing:

From Stop the Lines:

And at the heart of Stop The Lines resistence:

How’s that for a depressing photo?  That’s Highview in Newton, NJ, and that’s a 500 kV AC line, TRIPLE BUNDLED (it originally was QUAD bundled, but that was over-reach beyond belief, and hey dropped it), HUGE capacity line, HUGE.  Oh, and that’s the same configuration as the GNTL line.   AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!  Look how close it is, and if ice coated lines and towers meet high wind, what happens if these crumple like others we’ve seen?

Check out these solar panels, house on Marksboro Road.  The one just north has a roof full too, not just that garage!

Here’s where it crosses Mt. Holly Rd. and you can see what the construction does to this field:

Here’s a view of the Picatinny Arsenal, thanks to Stop the Lines, and the tower is 215′ tall, the transmission towers through here will be ~25 feet shorter than this:

And yes, this is the transmission line that goes over the Delaware Water Gap and the Appalachian Trail!  Here’s on the eastern side, NJ side, of the Delaware Water Gap:

DOH!  The Delaware Water Gap is one of the country’s few Wild and Scenic Rivers (like our own St. Croix River):

Just the place for transmission! Enough… transmission sucks.

One of the perks of the job and being in the neighborhood was that I got to hear Phil Woods at the Deer Head Inn, he lives right around the corner.  That must have been 2009, maybe 2010.  His relatives on the Charlie Parker side came in from the east, place was packed, and as Ed Berger would say, “way outside.”


Categories: Citizens

Coal gasification loses even more support

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 10:51am

Thanks to Charlotte for finding this.  My Google Alerts disappeared and now I’m the last to know!

For the Excelsior’s Mesaba Project, the carbon capture and storage was a farce, the project plan took it to the PLANT GATE, and a small percentage of it at that.  A scam:

IGCC – Pipedreams of Green and Clean

And McClatchyDC says the POTUS is taking a “step back” from coal gasification.  ‘Bout time for this coal state Pres. to admit the obvious reality that this is NOT “the way forward for coal.”

The White House walks away from clean coal

How can they write a headline like that and not put the quotes around “clean coal.”

Categories: Citizens

Advocating for MTB trails: CROCT Board members meet with Rice County Commissioner Jeff Docken

Mountain Bike Geezer - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:43am

CROCT Board members Marty Larson, Jeremy Bokman and I had lunch yesterday at Tandem Bagels with Rice County District 5 Commissioner Jeff Docken.

It was a follow-up to the meeting that Marty, Jeremy and I had last August with Jake Rysavy, Rice County Parks & Facilities Director in which he expressed support for exploring the possibility of mountain bike trails at Caron Park and McCullough Park/Campground.

McCullough Park is in Jeff Docken’s district and he seemed intrigued about the possibility of having mountain bike trails on the large tract of park property across from the newly remodeled campground on Shields Lake.

See the August 21 photos in this CROCT blog post when Marty, Jeremy and I did a walk-through of McCullough. As you can see, the property has both a large sloping prairie and many ravines, making it ideal for mtb trails of all ability levels. And being adjacent to a trail head on a lake with a campground, picnic shelter, rest rooms, showers, boat access, etc, one could imagine McCullough becoming a destination mountain bike park someday.

We’ve expressed our preference for creating beginner-to-advanced mtb trails at Caron Park first. It’s situated half way between Faribault and Northfield, a more convenient (15-minute drive) for CROCT trail workers from both cities who would be investing hundreds of volunteer hours in constructing trails there. And after gaining a season’s worth of experience with trail-building at Caron, we would be in a better position to assess what we could accomplish at McCullough, a more demanding venue.

The next step will likely be for this to be an agenda item on an upcoming meeting of the Rice County Board’s Parks and Facilities committee before it goes to the full Board. The wheels of government don’t always move quickly but it’s possible that we could be authorized to dig at Caron Park this year.

Subscribe to my free Thick Skull MTB Skills/Mountain Bike Geezer newsletter and get:

  1. The free 6-part series, 'Light Hands, Heavy Feet': 17 mountain bike drills to develop the 'light hands' habit and make your riding more stable no matter what the terrain
  2. Exclusive how-to-ride related content every week that I don't post on my blog.

So do it. Get it through your Thick Skull.

The post Advocating for MTB trails: CROCT Board members meet with Rice County Commissioner Jeff Docken appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

Getting City of Northfield officials to walk the Sechler Park mountain bike trail when it’s zero degrees & windy

Mountain Bike Geezer - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 7:34pm

City of Northfield Ward 2 Councilor David DeLong and Park & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) Chair Dale Gehring walked the the Sechler Park mtb trail this afternoon, accompanied by yours truly and CROCT board chair Marty Larson.

The 1.5 hour hike of  about 3 miles (from the cul-de-sac behind Walgreen’s to the far pavilion and back) was a little challenging, as the temperature hovered around the zero mark with gusty northwest winds.

Marty and I wanted to give them a first-hand look at what CROCT volunteers have accomplished in Sechler Park since we got approval from the City to construct a mountain bike trail there last year. We’d like to add extensions and features to the trail this year, as well as install one or more trail head kiosks.  And we’re interested in discussing the possibilities of adding off-road trails and bike park features like pump tracks to other City of Northfield parks. (For example, see the CROCT blog posts about the Meadows Park community planning meetings.)

We’re not yet sure if Dave and Dale were impressed with what they saw, but given the weather conditions, it’s likely they’ll remember the experience.  

And on related note, Councilor Dave took a few spins around the River Bend Nature Center parking lot last Saturday on a fat bike during the RBNC Fat Bike Event. In case you missed the photos of him in the blog post/photo album:


Subscribe to my free Thick Skull MTB Skills/Mountain Bike Geezer newsletter and get:

  1. The free 6-part series, 'Light Hands, Heavy Feet': 17 mountain bike drills to develop the 'light hands' habit and make your riding more stable no matter what the terrain
  2. Exclusive how-to-ride related content every week that I don't post on my blog.

So do it. Get it through your Thick Skull.

The post Getting City of Northfield officials to walk the Sechler Park mountain bike trail when it’s zero degrees & windy appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

Washington State & Buy the Farm

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:32am


Washington State is working on “Buy the Farm,” based on Minnesota’s law, which is an option for landowners facing condemnation for a transmission line to force the utility to buy them out, to “Buy the Farm.”  A bill was introduced last Monday in the Washington State House:

House Bill 2047

It’s been referred to House Judiciary — here’s the page for status of bills:


Is this exciting or what?!?!  Each state where transmission projects are proposed should get going and enact “Buy the Farm.”  I’ve had a request to pass this around far and wide, so here goes!

Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is, so far, the only one in the nation that provides and option for landowners to force the utility to buy them out, rather than just condemn a small easement.  This allows landowners to get out from under a transmission line. Here’s Minnesota’s Buy the Farm:

Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4. Contiguous land.

(a) When private real property that is an agricultural or nonagricultural homestead, nonhomestead agricultural land, rental residential property, and both commercial and noncommercial seasonal residential recreational property, as those terms are defined in section 273.13 is proposed to be acquired for the construction of a site or route for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more by eminent domain proceedings, the owner shall have the option to require the utility to condemn a fee interest in any amount of contiguous, commercially viable land which the owner wholly owns in undivided fee and elects in writing to transfer to the utility within 60 days after receipt of the notice of the objects of the petition filed pursuant to section 117.055. Commercial viability shall be determined without regard to the presence of the utility route or site. Within 60 days after receipt by the utility of an owner’s election to exercise this option, the utility shall provide written notice to the owner of any objection the utility has to the owner’s election, and if no objection is made within that time, any objection shall be deemed waived. Within 120 days of the service of an objection by the utility, the district court having jurisdiction over the eminent domain proceeding shall hold a hearing to determine whether the utility’s objection is upheld or rejected. The utility has the burden of proof to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property elected by the owner is not commercially viable. The owner shall have only one such option and may not expand or otherwise modify an election without the consent of the utility. The required acquisition of land pursuant to this subdivision shall be considered an acquisition for a public purpose and for use in the utility’s business, for purposes of chapter 117 and section 500.24, respectively; provided that a utility shall divest itself completely of all such lands used for farming or capable of being used for farming not later than the time it can receive the market value paid at the time of acquisition of lands less any diminution in value by reason of the presence of the utility route or site. Upon the owner’s election made under this subdivision, the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee, sought in the condemnation petition for a right-of-way for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more shall automatically be converted into a fee taking.

(b) All rights and protections provided to an owner under chapter 117 apply to acquisition of land or an interest in land under this section.

(c) Within 120 days of an owner’s election under this subdivision to require the utility to acquire land, or 120 days after a district court decision overruling a utility objection to an election made pursuant to paragraph (a), the utility must make a written offer to acquire that land and amend its condemnation petition to include the additional land.

(d) For purposes of this subdivision, “owner” means the fee owner, or when applicable, the fee owner with the written consent of the contract for deed vendee, or the contract for deed vendee with the written consent of the fee owner.




Some Buy the Farm background:

(from No CapX 2020)

Here are some photos I took yesterday of the CapX 2020 transmission project being constructed at White Bridge Rd. over the Zumbro River — UGLY UGLY UGLY, it’s ugly wherever it goes.

From KAAL-TV, filmed yesterday near Pine Island and Oronoco:

Locals Sound Off on CapX 2020 Project

A long-time energy activist recently called “Buy the Farm,” Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4, MY statute.  And in a way, it is… For at least 15 years now, since the Chisago and Arrowhead Project, its been a constant mantra.  I’ve been raising “Buy the Farm” in the administrative dockets, the courts and the legislature.  If I had a dollar for every “Buy the Farm” flyer I’ve handed out at transmission line meetings and hearings, every mile driven across Minnesota, every hour greeting attendees, every legislator hounded, I’d never have to work again.

Buy_the_Farm Flyer

In 1999, World Organization for Landowner Freedom went to the Appellate Court after Minnesota Power filed for an exemption of its Arrowhead Transmission Project at the Environmental Quality Board and the exemption was granted by the EQB.  Minnesota Power requested this exemption because the line was so short it was exempted from a Certificate of Need, so what the heck, let’s try to get it exempted from Power Plant Siting Act’s Routing requirements as well… and they did.  One “unintended consequence” was that because it was exempted from the Power Plant Siting Act, landowners affected by the project were not able to elect “Buy the Farm” because it is part of the Power Plant Siting Act.  But of course, I don’t think that was “unintended” at all.

What did the court say to our argument that the landowners didn’t receive notice that exemption would mean they couldn’t elect Buy the Farm?  Well, can you spell “raspberries?”

Due process challenge to notice to landowners

In eminent-domain proceedings for projects subject to the siting act, landowners can elect condemnation and compensation for owner’s entire fee interests.   See Minn. Stat.  116C.63, subd. 4 (2000) (take-the-whole-farm option).  WOLF argues that due process requires that notice to landowners should have included notice that if an exemption is granted, the take-the-whole farm option will not be available to them.  The siting act is unambiguous, however, and provides all the notice required that the take-the-whole-farm option does not apply to projects exempted from the act.  MP complied with the specific application-for-exemption notice requirements in the siting act.  See Minn. Stat.  116C.57, subd. 5 (2000).  No one challenged the sufficiency of notice to landowners in the proceedings before the board.  We find WOLF’s argument on this issue meritless.

Ja, tell that to the landowners under the 345 kV line… (and btw, sufficiency of notice WAS raised).

In 2001, when the legislature changed the definition of “High Voltage Transmission Line” to a transmission over 100 kV, utilities realized it would mean lines such as the SE Metro line or the Chisago Transmission Project would be affected, so they went to the legislature to get the threshold for Buy the Farm raised to 200 kV.  There was strong resistance, we stormed the Capitol, showed up and testified, but they won, lined up their toady legislators and got it through.  The result?  Landowners under all of these 69 kV “upgrades” to 115 kV and 161 kV are not able to elect the “Buy the Farm” option, despite it now being categorized as “High Voltage Transmission.”

Then the utilities began their transmission build-out, and massive it is.  Having to comply with “Buy the Farm” would greatly increase their construction costs, though they are required to sell BTF land acquisitions within a few years.  And over a decade later, in the St. Cloud area, with the first of the CapX 2020 projects to wind through the courts for condemnation, Xcel fought kicking and screaming against landowner elections of Buy the Farm and demands for relocation compensation.  Jerry Von Korff led the charge for landowners and No CapX 2020 and United Citizens Action Network filed an Amicus brief.  Xcel lost:

Buy the Farm — A Win For The Home Team!

That decision, for the landowners fighting for their right to elect Buy the Farm and for an award of relocation expenses, was a big slap upside the head for those utilities trying to limit landowner compensation — Xcel fought it through the Appellate Court and all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court — losers again:

Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion – Court File A11-1116

Did they learn?  Naaaaaaaaaah… and here they go again, with another great win for landowners in the District Court:

Minar Order_Buy the Farm

This decision establishes yet another point on the “Buy the Farm” line showing that landowners do have rights, and can elect the Buy the Farm option.

What’s particularly important in this case is that the judge recognized that it’s NOT about the substantive issues of EMF, that causation is not at issue in an eminent domain condemnation proceeding (anymore than it is in an administrative permitting proceeding, but see Power Line Task Force v. Public Utilities Commission (2001) for the appellate view on EMF and the PUC’s responsibility for safe electricity), that experts are utterly irrelevant and should be disregarded and really, shouldn’t have been admitted — that framing by Xcel is distraction:

If only the Public Utilities Commission and the Administrative Law Judges working these cases would get that message.

The trend continues… Buy the Farm is the law in the state of Minnesota.  Utilities, get used to it.  If you want to take land, pony up.

Will Xcel challenge this District Court decision?  We shall see, and if they do, we’ll have Amicus “pen” in hand to again join the fracas in support of landowners.


Categories: Citizens

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