TOWN OF HOLLAND – Steve Breidel had the foundation poured for his new three-bedroom ranch home when he got some troubling news: His lot is potentially in the path of a high-voltage power line.
He doesn’t know yet if the 345-kilovolt line with its towers of up to 150 feet would go directly over the house, which he hopes to have finished by early December, or across the street.
“It’s still too close,” he said while spreading topsoil Wednesday. “Then you’re looking at the line and not the Minnesota bluffs, which is why I bought the lot. They’re going to take it all away.”
Ultimately, the route – and whether the line gets built at all – will be up to regulators at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which last week received an application for the project known as Badger Coulee.
A joint venture of American Transmission Co. and Xcel Energy, Badger Coulee would run along one of three possible routes would connect the Madison area to CapX2020, another high-voltage line currently under construction between the Twin Cities and Holmen.
There are two proposed routes out of Holmen. One cuts through Onalaska; the other would run north to Black River Falls before following Interstate 90. That second route could follow Hwy. 53 – running right alongside what will be the CapX corridor – or dogleg to the west and up through Breidel’s August Prairie neighborhood.
Developer George Parke said about 35 of the original 95 lots are still available, but sales came to a halt after the power line was announced. As a result, he said, many of the residents are now underwater – owing more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.
“It’s destroyed the value of the lots,” Parke said. “For the next two or three years they won’t be able to sell, they won’t be able to refinance.”
ATC says the project will help deliver wind energy to markets in the east where there is greater demand, improve regional reliability of the power grid and ultimately result in lower electricity rates.
A coalition of Wisconsin utilities, labor unions and business associations has lined up in support of the project, which carries a price tag of up to $552 million, costs that will be passed on to ratepayers across the Midwest.
Dozens of residents and homeowners potentially in the path of the line gathered in the town hall Wednesday night to learn more about the project and what they can do to fight it.
Barb Spangler, whose cattle farm is under the western route out of Holmen known as “Option P,” said she would like to see consideration of an additional substation in Trempealeau County that would obviate the need to run a second power line through the community.
“If there’s going to be a power line,” she said, “it should be considered.”
Brian Meeter, a spokesman for the Holland Neighborhood Preservation Alliance and a board member of the Holland Citizens Energy Committee, said the two groups were hastily formed after town residents learned of the proposed Northern route.
“We’re not saying go put it in your neighbor’s yard,” said attorney Phil Addis, who represents the HCEC. “We’re saying consider the impact.”
Meeter is hoping to generate enough support that the Citizens Energy Committee can achieve intervenor status with the PSC, giving the group a louder voice – and money to pay attorneys to fight on their behalf.
“This is a statement,” Meeter said of the gathering. “It’s like picketing.”
Breidel said he’s going to do what he can to fight the line. Meanwhile, he feels he has no choice but to finish the house.
“We had about $50,000 into the lot,” he said. “You can’t really walk away at that point.”
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