Easements and rights of way

Providing reliable electric service to our member cooperatives sometimes requires us to upgrade existing transmission lines or build new ones. For information about a current power line project in your area, visit the current projects page. If you have received a mailing about a proposed project in your area and have questions, contact your Great River Energy representative listed at the bottom of the project fact sheet.

When Great River Energy needs to build a transmission line on someone’s property, a right of way professional works with landowners to obtain easements. If you are a landowner in the area of a proposed power line, you will receive information about the project by mail and from a Great River Energy representative. You will have opportunities throughout the process to ask questions and provide your input.

What is an easement?

An easement is a right and interest in real property for a specific use, such as a transmission line. With an easement, the property owner grants permission to Great River Energy to build a transmission line on the land for an agreed-upon payment. The property owner still owns and can use the property on which the line is located, but the easement grants us the right to build, operate and maintain the line (including removing vegetation) within the defined area. Easements are permanent and generally last as long as it is being utilized for the use described in the easement.

What is a right of way and what rights does Great River Energy have?

The right of way is the actual strip of land defined in the easement. Our easement rights allow for the right to enter the easement area to remove trees and vegetation and the right to remove or trim trees adjacent to the right of way. Right of way widths depend primarily on the size of the power line. Ours typically range from 70 feet to 180 feet.

How much will I be paid? When will I receive payment?

Once a final route is determined and we have the necessary permits, we identify which landowners will be affected by the line. We then study current market property values and the type of land the line will cross. Next, we develop an “easement” payment schedule that becomes the basis for negotiations with landowners for each parcel of land. If you have signed an easement, you will receive your payment prior to construction.

What is the process for acquiring easements?

If an easement is needed across your property, a Great River Energy representative will personally meet with you to discuss:

  • The type of power line that will be built and the proposed location of the easement and power line across your property
  • Terms and conditions of the easement document
  • The payment schedule and amount of your payment. In addition, we will answer your questions, provide you with a copy of the easement and give you information that describes various aspects of the power line.

What if we can’t reach an agreement?

Great River Energy always prefers to negotiate directly with landowners and come to an agreement. However, in the event an agreement cannot be reached between you and Great River Energy, Minnesota law authorizes a court proceeding called eminent domain.
Eminent domain is a right granted by the state that allows for the condemnation of land for facilities that benefit the general public, such as transmission lines. To exercise the right to an eminent domain proceeding, Great River Energy must prove the proposed facility is needed to serve the public before we can exercise this right.

In such proceedings, the court appoints three commissioners who are knowledgeable in real estate matters to determine the amount to be paid for the easement. If the landowner or Great River Energy is dissatisfied with the amount of the commissioner’s award, either party may request an additional proceeding to determine compensation.

After easements and necessary approvals are in place, the line can be built. Landowners will receive information about the construction process which involves surveying, tree removal, construction and restoration of property.

Can I plant anything in the right of way area?

For your benefit, DO NOT plant any trees in the right of way area before talking to Great River Energy first. As a landowner, even with an easement granted to Great River Energy, most property rights do remain with you, but we do not want to have to remove your new tree. Activities in the easement area that do not interfere with the safe construction, operation and maintenance of the line are permitted, i.e. using the land for pastureland, farming or gardening. More about ongoing maintenance

Can I build a building or other structure in the easement area?

Not without prior written approval from Great River Energy. Buildings and other structures are generally not permitted on rights of way. Crops, driveways, fences, parking lots and other such activities are permitted but must be reviewed by Great River Energy prior to construction. Again, we need to discuss projects with you so we can avoid problems in the future.