Client Great River Energy
Location Brookings, South Dakota
Scope 249 miles, 345 Kilovolts

CapX2020, Brookings Line

Project Details

Westwood’s Role

  • Topographic Surveying, Easements, Construction Staking, As-Builts)
  • Civil Engineering; Roadway Evaluation
  • Aerial Mapping


CapX2020, a joint initiative of utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region, joined forces to bring reliable and affordable service to the area. Their biggest project to date is the 345 kV Brookings County to Hampton line which runs just under 250 miles and will provide power to an area that hasn’t seen a major upgrade in more than 30 years, but whose demand has nearly doubled. Westwood played an important role in the successful completion of this massive project which was constructed during one of the coldest winters and wettest springs on the record books.

Rural Road Evaluation: A New Standard

This 250-mile power line construction project runs across 500 miles of mostly rural roads, which were not originally designed to handle massive construction vehicles. An apparently sound road in August can sink a heavy vehicle to its axles in March. Unanticipated problems like this can threaten a project’s success and take it way over budget with transportation emergencies and site access problems.

To avoid this, Westwood performed roadway evaluations for each mile of county and township road before construction work began. The team creatively used existing technologies to test road strength and viability. Results were used to recommend the best value routes for construction vehicles. For example, a shorter route might be preferred by contractors for its more direct access, but after analysis, the route may be found to cost the client significantly more in the form of improvements and/or repair costs. In cases such as these, Westwood recommended alternate routes utilizing better roads. The strategy required education to bring contractors on board, but in the end, all parties were satisfied as the project progressed more smoothly and efficiently than similar projects.

This front-end approach to roadway use also worked well to alleviate disagreements and costly battles with counties and townships, who were generally very happy to make agreements on the front end of the project cycle. Roadway evaluation is a relatively new discipline in this field and one that often pays for itself over the life of a project.

Overcoming Obstacles

A new 250-mile power line inevitably meets resistance, despite the region’s need for affordable and reliable power. Working with landowners, lawyers, and local governments is part of the process and requires responsible and diligent attention to both the technical and personal side of the project. Westwood was required to prepare separate exhibits for each property identification number and individual landowner, which resulted in approximately 950 individual easement exhibits for the project – a massive undertaking.

Whenever possible, Westwood worked closely with all parties to ensure towers were placed as optimally as possible without compromising efficiency or cost. “If a farmer needed more clearance to pivot machinery, we did what we could to help,” explained project manager Dan Beckmann, “Land owners and land owner rights play a big part in a project like this. Patience, perseverance, and teamwork are necessary skills.”

As winter made way for spring, survey crews found extra work as stakes placed in deep snow and frozen ground fell over. As Beckmann good-naturedly explained, “It was frustrating, but it’s all part of the job -- in Minnesota, anyway.”