Our Power

Teamwork at its height

Photos from a recent sky-high transmission project illustrate the challenges overcome by Minnkota’s dedicated line crews.


Kaylee Cusack


April 20, 2023

Amid the Ides of March, Minnkota line foreman Butch Tester and his crew were taking on their last large transmission project before the official start of spring. The team was raising a new H-frame structure on Minnkota’s 230-kilovolt (kV) line just south of Grand Forks, N.D. Tall snowbanks and low wind chills made it feel like the height of winter, not the cusp of springtime.

But a long-lasting winter has never slowed them before. It wasn’t going to slow them now. “You know, construction season never really begins or ends, season-wise, at Minnkota,” Tester said with a grin.

A project this size takes a lot of bucket truck and cranework. Four work arms were in the air through much of the construction. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

The new transmission structure was one of two H-frame placements that will make room for the new Walle substation planned near Highway 81. Before Minnkota’s crew of lineworkers could set the new poles, they first had to simply get to the site.

“There was a lot of snow to remove. That’s one of those things we just deal with in the wintertime, especially this year,” Tester explained. “You need room to get those five trucks in there. You can’t just clear one path and expect to get everything in that work area.”

Lineworkers Tukker Hammer (left) and Heath James secure insulators on the structure. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

After spending a full day clearing the work zone with skid steers and payloaders, the lineworkers had to return three days later to clean up an extra several inches of drifted snow dropped by a weekend blizzard. Soon, they were harnessed up and ready to rise.

Over two days, the team placed the structure, bolted the crossarms, lined up the braces, hung the wire, and reinforced it all by lacing the “X” beams in the center. All steps took precision teamwork, from the men in the buckets to the crane operators on the ground.

A Minnkota line crew installs the final beams of a 230-kilovolt transmission line structure south of Grand Forks, N.D. Pictured left to right: Joey Hanson, Garret Reineke, Tukker Hammer, and Heath James. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

“There is a lot of work that goes into changing out these structures,” Tester said, adding that other crews will arrive on the site after the snow melts in May to begin dirt work for the substation. “It all went well.”

MAIN IMAGE: Minnkota lineworkers make adjustments at the peak of a new wooden H-frame line structure. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)


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