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Do You Have Property Being Affected by the Huntley Wilmarth Project?

The Huntley-Wilmarth transmission line project has been approved, a route has been determined, and construction is set to begin in 2020. The Huntley-Wilmarth project will connect a fifty mile, 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Excel Energy’s Huntley substation, north of Mankato, to ITC’s Wilmarth substation, south of Winnebago. The route will cross Blue Earth, Faribault, Nicollet, and Martin counties. The Huntley-Wilmarth website provides a detailed map of where the transmission lines will be installed.

If you own impacted property, it is likely you have been contacted already regarding the project.  You may have even been presented with an offer for compensation.  As a property owner you are entitled to not only damages to the easement area, but also severance damages to the remainder of the property.  An additional consideration related to just compensation is the amount of construction-related interference related to the project as a result of the construction processes and use of heavy equipment.   

Under Minnesota law, a property owner whose qualified property is impacted by a high voltage transmission line may elect to have the utility company buy all or a portion of the property impacted, as well as any contiguous, commercially viable property.  The applicable statute is known as the “Buy the Farm” statue.  Additionally, the property owner may elect to have their compensation of fair market value paid to them in payments made to them over time at 8% interest.  Add to this the fact that it is an opportunity to sell your property for fair market value without the costs of a realtor and with a utility company paying for all of the closing costs.  Depending on one’s circumstances, the “Buy the Farm” statute may present a fitting option for the landowner.

If selling all or a portion of one’s property under the “Buy the Farm” statute is not preferred, then the property owner’s compensation is based on damages.  Damages from powerlines to property can depend on a number of factors, which may include, but not be limited to: the manner in which the easement crosses the property (on the edge versus bisection through the middle), the restrictions on the use of the property imposed by the easement, construction interference, aesthetic impacts (existence and views of poles and lines), compaction of agricultural soil with heavy equipment, potential interference with irrigation systems or spraying, highest and best use of the property and any reasonably anticipated future uses of the property, already existing easements on the property, improvements on the property, local land use regulations, and overall general physical characteristics of the property.

Because of all of the variables in assessing damages, it is important to consult with professionals.  Attorneys experienced in eminent domain matters, as well as appraisers, are key to assisting the landowners with ensuring they are paid just compensation for the easement and its impacts to the surrounding property.  Minnesota law allows for reimbursement of appraiser fees, as well as the possibility of reimbursement of attorneys’ fees depending on the outcome of the case.  A property owner may also reinvest money it is paid for a taking of their property and defer any capital gains liability by reinvesting the money into new property by way of a 1033 exchange.  

It is important to remember that once the easement is there, it will be there and impact the property and its value in perpetuity.  Investing the time and energy in consulting with knowledgeable professionals is important in protecting the investment you have made into your property.  We are willing to sit down with you once an offer is made and make an assessment of your case at no cost to you.  Give us a call to set up a consultation.