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ATC eliminates options for power line route

The Kickapoo Valley – one of the state’s most scenic regions – is no longer under consideration for a high-voltage transmission line through the Coulee Region.

American Transmission Co. on Tuesday unveiled preliminary route alternatives for the proposed 345-kilovolt Badger Coulee line that would connect the Madison area with CapX2020, another proposed high-voltage line from the Twin Cities. Several Vernon County routes are now considered inactive.

Five primary routes remain under consideration: two travel through the Holmen/

Onalaska area, traversing

La Crosse and Monroe counties; three run through Trempealeau and Jackson counties.

ATC spokeswoman Sarah Justus said the company winnowed its options through two years of study and public meetings taking into consideration environmental, engineering and political concerns.

Justus said there was particular concern about the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, as well as Fort McCoy.

Critics of the line said their efforts made a difference, though they still oppose it.

“We think the new routes indicate the major impact that citizens have had on the process,” said Joe Morse of Winona, a spokesman for Citizens Energy Task Force. But he added, “I wouldn’t say we’re happy. We don’t think this (transmission line) is needed at all. We think it is a waste of money and a waste of energy.”

ATC said it will contact about 9,000 potentially affected people along the active routes as well as some 30,000 along inactive ones. The company will host a third round of open houses next month in six communities along the considered routes.

Justus said the company will decide by the fall on at least two routes that will be proposed to the Public Service Commission in early 2013.

Two previous rounds of open houses drew nearly 4,000 people, and the company has received about 1,800 written comments, Justus said.

Of the current routes, three run from proposed substations near Arcadia and Galesville and across Jackson County before following the Interstate 94/90 corridor.

Other options run from a proposed substation north of Holmen through La Crosse, Monroe and Juneau counties to the I-90 corridor. One route follows I-90 to Sparta and Hwy. 71 through Wilton. Another follows Hwy. 16 to Rockland, veers south to Cashton and then east to the Interstate.

Whatever route is chosen will depend on what the Wisconsin Public Service Commission decides about CapX2020, which could terminate at new substations near Holmen, Galesville, Ettrick or Arcadia.

Other alternatives being considered include scrapping the 345-kv line altogether in favor of 161-kv options. That would force ATC to reconsider the project, Justus said.

The three-member PSC must issue a ruling on the CapX project – including a route – by June 4. A decision is likely to happen sometime in May.

ATC says the $425 million project will improve system reliability and efficiency, increase access to wholesale electricity markets and help connect to wind power resources in the West.

Opponents argue energy demand is declining and the lines will actually carry coal power to the East while local customers bear the costs.

George Nygaard is a public intervenor on the CapX project who also opposes the Badger Coulee line. He argues the state could create more jobs and address energy needs by tapping local resources such as the wind on the Great Lakes.

“I’m not against all transmission, just stupid transmission,” Nygaard said. “Why should we be sending our energy dollars outside the state?”

The Wisconsin State Journal contributed to this story.