NORWALK – American Transmission Company held an open house Thursday to explain its proposed transmission line.
So did the line’s skeptics.
Just three blocks separated the two meetings that were held simultaneously, and both drew people eager to ask questions about the project.
Five primary routes for the 345-kilovolt line remain under consideration: two travel through the Holmen/Onalaska area, traversing La Crosse and Monroe counties; three run through Trempealeau and Jackson counties.
One of the Monroe County routes would follow Highway 71 through Norwalk, but Rob Danielson of LaFarge, secretary of Epic Planning Information Committee, said objections are much deeper than people who don’t want it in their neighborhood.
“Everyone who’s here is actually not a NIMBY at all,” Danielson said. “We are discussing what the overall plan is and how it will impact us as ratepayers and the local economy.”
Danielson said better use of existing lines and conservation would satisfy future demand. He said ATC likes the plan because it’s cheaper to generate power out west and transmit it east. The line would connect the Madison area with CapX2020, another proposed high-voltage line from the Twin Cities.
“The line has nothing to do with the availability of power in Vernon County and Monroe County,” he said. “In the United States we have 30 percent more ability to produce electricity across the whole country than we have ability to consume it. There is no shortage of power in the United States.”
Sara Justus, spokeswoman for ATC, acknowledged that some capacity isn’t being used. However, she said seeking less expensive transmission is a good thing for consumers.
“There may be generation that’s not running because it’s cheaper to generate it somewhere else,” Justus said. “Getting lower-cost power from other states is a good idea, especially wind power from outside the state.”
She said the lines would move electricity more efficiently and put “downward pressure” on electric bills. She said western Wisconsin residents would benefit from a more reliable and efficient system.
Danielson said conservation is the most reliable alternative.
“For every dollar that’s spent on high-voltage transmission, 80 cents of that dollar goes into the finance industry,” he said. “For every dollar we spend on conservation, 75 cents goes into (local) services.”
Justus stressed that no final decisions have been made on routing or location of transmission towers. ATC earlier this spring ruled out routes through Vernon and Sauk counties.
“There’s a lot to consider, and we’re very much in the informational stage,” she said.
ATC will decide by the fall on at least two routes that will be proposed to the Public Service Commission in early 2013. It hopes to start construction in 2016 and place the line into service by 2018.
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