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PUC: NorthWestern encroached on Charles Mix co-op's territory

PIERRE -- South Dakota Public Utility commissioners earlier this week settled a squabble between two electrical utilities serving the Platte area. Chairman Gary Hanson said the PUC on Tuesday ruled in favor of the Charles Mix Electric Association...

PIERRE -- South Dakota Public Utility commissioners earlier this week settled a squabble between two electrical utilities serving the Platte area.

Chairman Gary Hanson said the PUC on Tuesday ruled in favor of the Charles Mix Electric Association in that company's service area dispute with NorthWestern Energy.

"We determined that NorthWestern has encroached on the service territory of CMEA," Hanson said, adding the commission studied maps from 1976 to 1979 and additional maps prepared by both utilities and the PUC

"We relied primarily on a 1976 PUC map and a map prepared by NorthWestern in 1979 to make our decision," he said.

Rapid City attorney Michael J. Whalen represented the CMEA in Tuesday's action and Sioux Falls attorney Ron Goglin represented NorthWestern Energy.

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NorthWestern provides electric service to most of the city of Platte and the CMEA to surrounding areas.

CMEA had argued that NorthWestern had encroached in areas in southwest Platte, specifically a subdivision known as Sunset Acres, which had been annexed into to the city of Platte in recent years.

Hanson said that as a result of Tuesday's ruling, CMEA and NorthWestern have entered into discussions regarding compensation to CMEA for the property owners in Sunset Acres who are receiving electric service from NorthWestern.

Hanson said NorthWestern had installed the electrical infrastructure in the Sunset Acres subdivision about five years ago.

The area has a few homes now, Hanson said, but recent building activity caught the attention of the CMEA.

NorthWestern does have the right to appeal the decision, Hanson said, but he doesn't think that's likely.

It is more likely, Hanson said, that both sides will sit down and arrange some compensation for the service transfer and the electrical infrastructure.

Hanson said no compensation amount had been mentioned Tuesday and no follow-up meeting was scheduled with the PUC.

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