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Badger Coiulee Power Line meetings coninue

For four years Wisconsin residents have argued the benefits and drawbacks of high-voltage power transmission crossing the center of the state through Juneau County.

A few groups have opposed the corridor, saying it’s not needed and will commit the state to generating more electricity by burning coal when additional efficiencies are needed.

Now it appears that they have an ally in the mayor of Mauston.

“It offers absolutely nothing and property values will go down,” Brian McGuire recently told the Mauston Common Council.”Personally I don’t want to pay for it.”

Mauston City Administrator Nathan Thiel agreed.

“Our primary concern is it cutting our business district in half,” Thiel said. “For us it’s a lose-lose.”

The Badger Coulee transmission line project, which will cost about $540 million, is backed by American Transmission Co. and Xcel Energy. Those companies say the power line, which will cross the state from Madison to La Crosse, is needed to improve the overall power grid in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

The project has been pending for at least four years. If it’s approved, construction will not start for another two years; the line will not be in service until 2018.

Maps provided by the power companies show two potential routes.

One version would run alongside Interstate 90, while the other route would head west from the interstate north of Lyndon Station along county Highway O. It would then run south of Elroy, and continue past Ontario and the Wildcat Mountain State Park.

Mauston city officials who object to the project are on the same side of the question as SOUL of Wisconsin (Save Our Unique Lands), which also objects to the power line, but for different reasons. City officials believe construction of the power-line corridor will remove potentially valuable land near I-90 from any chance of development. SOUL members say they object because they don’t like the area being dependent on another major power line.

“We don’t think this line is the best avenue for future energy policy,” said Joan Kent, who speaks for SOUL.

Kaya Freiman, a spokesperson for American Transmission Co., one of the line’s developers, said the line will use renewable energy from other states including wind power from the west. She said the line’s high capacity also will help the utility purchase power produced at a low cost from other areas.

SOUL members say they worry about the line’s impact on property values, adding that previous high-power lines have depressed the value of nearby property.

Freiman said that the lines’ developers will seek easements and will not purchase land where the power line will run. Property owners will be compensated, she said. The line will use a corridor about 150 feet wide. Some trees will be removed to make room for the line, but Freiman noted the company has sponsored tree-planting programs in Wisconsin.

The latest in a very long series of public “scoping” meetings on the line will come to the Juneau County area in June.

Hearings will be held June 5 at the Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells at 1305 Kalahari drive, and on June 10 in Tomah at the Best Western Motel, 1017 East McCoy Boulevard.