Minnesota State Land Right-of-Way (3-MN-b)
MNDNR has several resources to help a developer determine whether the project will cross public lands or waters. Developers can use the MNDNR Recreation Compass and the MNDNR Landview interactive maps to determine where state lands are located and whether a License is needed.
State Land Right-of-Way Process
3-MN-b.1 to 3-MN-b.2 - Does the Developer Need a Land Lease or Easement?
The License will grant the developer approval to construct a transmission project crossing state lands and waters, but in some circumstances, the developer may seek to acquire a state land lease or easement in addition to the License. A developer may need a land lease if the developer needs to remove materials from the land or deposit dirt, rock, sand, gravel or clay on an area of state land. A developer may need a land lease or easement if the developer needs to construct roads across state lands in order to access the project.
In order to obtain a lease or easement, the developer must contact the appropriate MNDNR regional office with details about the project. If the developer is requesting a lease, MNDNR reviews the request to ensure the proposed use does not conflict with the resource management objectives of the land. If the developer is requesting an easement, the developer should submit a State Land Easement Application to MNDNR. More information on state land leases can be found on the MNDNR Land Lease Website. More information on state land easements and applications can be found on the MNDNR Land Easement Website.
3-MN-b.3 - Contact MNDNR (Optional)
If the developer has any outstanding questions regarding land ownership, the planned route of the transmission line, or existing resources along that route, the developer should contact the MNDNR regional office in the region the project will take place.
3-MN-b.4 - Utility Crossing License Application
The developer must complete a Utility Crossing License Application (“Application”) in order to obtain a License. Minn. Stat. § 84.415. The developer must submit four (4) copies of the Application and each copy must include:
- A legal description of the lands or waters affected;
- A description of the required right-of-way;
- A map of the proposed project; and
- Detailed designs of any structures necessary to the project.
The applicant (developer) must also address applicable MNDNR environmental standards in the Application and indicate whether the project will meet those standards. If some environmental standards are not met, the developer must include an explanation of why those standards are not met. The developer should also, if possible, supply MNDNR with data on relevant site conditions of the proposed route. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.1000(2).
If the developer is proposing to construct overhead (above ground) utilities, they must explain the economic, technological or land characteristic factors that make underground placement infeasible. Economic factors alone will not be a satisfactory explanation. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.1200(1)(a).
The applicant (developer) must also submit an Application fee, if necessary, with the Application. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.0400. Generally, if the transmission lines will operate at a voltage of 100kV or greater, an Application fee is required. A typical Application fee is $500, but MNDNR may require a supplemental Application fee of $1,750 for a public water crossing License and $3,000 for a public land crossing License. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(6); Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.0400(2). These fees cover MNDNR’s reasonable costs for reviewing the Application and preparing the License. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(6).
3-MN-b.5 to 3-MN-b.6 – Review Application Materials for Completeness
MNDNR reviews the Application for completeness, and if there is any additional information needed to decide, MNDNR notifies the applicant (developer).
3-MN-b.7 to 3-MN-b.8 – Review Application
After receiving an Application, MNDNR assesses the project, and makes a determination whether to approve or deny the License. The evaluation process can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, depending on the scope and location of the project.
While reviewing the Application, MNDNR looks at the proposed structure design and route, and determine whether the applicant (developer) has adhered to the following standards:
- Avoid steep slopes;
- Avoid scenic intrusions into stream valleys and open exposures of water;
- Avoid scenic intrusions by avoiding ridge crests and high points; and
- Avoid creating tunnel vistas;
- Avoid wetlands; and
- Run along the fringe of forests as opposed to through them;
- Avoid soils whose high susceptibility to erosion would create sedimentation and pollution problems during and after construction;
- Avoid areas of plastic soils which would be subject to extensive slippage; and
- Avoid areas with high water tables, especially if excavation is required;
- Public Waters:
- Avoid streams, but if necessary, cross at the narrowest places or at existing crossings of roads, bridges or other utilities; and
- Avoid lakes, but if necessary, minimize the extent of encroachment by crossing underwater;
- Special Use Areas, which are the areas designated under Minn. Stat. § 84.033 as scientific and natural areas, the areas designated pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 103F.325 as units of the Minnesota Wild and Scenic River System, and the areas subject to special regulation for recreational, scenic, natural, scientific, or environmental purposes:
- Avoid them, but if there is not alternative, place the utility lines underground; and
- Locate the crossing with existing public facilities such as roads and other utilities;
- Structure of the Utility;
- Underground and underwater placement is favored because of the minimal visual impact;
- If overhead placement is necessary, the structures are hidden from view as much as practicable;
- The appearance of the structures are as compatible as practicable with the natural area with regard to, height, width, materials used and color; and
- The right-of-way width is kept to a minimum.
MNDNR may still grant the License even if some of these standards are not met, but they still serve as guidelines that developers should seek to comply with in order to increase the chance of MNDNR granting the License.
3-MN-b.9 to 3-MN-b.10 - Does Developer Agree to the Terms of License?
If MNDNR approves the License, it may do so with additional considerations and reservations MNDNR deems necessary to minimize the adverse effect on the environment. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.1700.
MNDNR may also require the developer pay a monitoring fee that covers MNDNR’s projected reasonable costs for monitoring the construction of the utility line and preparing special terms and conditions in the license to ensure proper construction. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(6)(a)(2). MNDNR returns any unused balance of the monitoring fee to the developer upon completion of construction. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(6)(c).
The License comes with a one-time License fee, determined by MNDNR, that the developer must pay to MNDNR. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.0400(3). The License fee is determined by the scope and location of the project, and estimated license fees can be found in Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.0520, § 6135.0620, § 6135.0720 and § 6135.0820.
Additionally, the License provides that if the construction of the project causes damage to timber or other property of the state, the developer must pay MNDNR for damage caused. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(5)(a).
The developer must agree to all terms of the License in order to obtain the License.
3-MN-b.11 - Utility Crossing License
If MNDNR approves the Application and the developer agrees to the terms and pays the License fee, MNDNR grants the developer a License and the developer may begin construction of the project. Standards Licenses are for a term of 50 years, but the developer may request a 25 year License in the Application. The fee for a 25 year License is the 60 percent equivalent of the 50 year License. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.0400.
The License includes specific construction requirements. When the project crosses roads or rivers during construction, the developer must leave a screen of vegetation between the project and the road or river. When the project crosses under public waters, the developer must take steps to prevent excessive erosion of lake or stream banks and construct temporary sediment traps to reduce sedimentation. If the project crosses wetlands, the developer must construct in the winter in order to minimize damage to the vegetation and in order to prevent erosion and sedimentation. Lastly, the developer must construct at times when local fish and wildlife are not spawning or nesting. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.1300.
The developer must allow natural vegetation to grow in the right-of-way provided it does not pose a hazard to or restrict reasonable use of the utility. Also, when the developer removes vegetation, it must plant and maintain new native vegetation recommended by MNDNR in the right-of-way. Minn. Admin. Rules § 6135.1400.
MNDNR may still sell or lease the land the License is granted for, but any such occurrence is subject to the License. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(1).
MNDNR retains the right to cancel the License upon 90 days written notice to the developer. MNDNR cancels the License when there is a substantial violation of the License’s terms, MNDNR determines that the License conflicts with a public use of the land or water, or for any other cause. Minn. Stat. § 84.415(1).
3-MN-b.12 – Appeal Decision (Optional)
If the developer or a member of the public is aggrieved by MNDNR’s decision, that person or developer may appeal the agency’s decision. In order to obtain a judicial review of the decision, the aggrieved party must file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the state Court of Appeals and serve notice to all parties no more than 30 days after the final decision and order of MNDNR. Minn. Stat. § 14.63.
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- Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 14 et seq., Administrative Procedure
- Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 84.415 et seq., Utility Licenses, Permits
- Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 84.033 et seq., Scientific and Natural Areas
- Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 103F.325 et seq., Designation Procedure
- Minnesota – Minn. Admin. Rules §§ 6135 et seq., Utility Crossings