State regulators have released the first draft of an environmental impact study of a proposed high-voltage transmission line between La Crosse and Dane counties.
A joint venture of Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co., the so-called Badger Coulee line would run a 345-kilovolt power line from a substation under construction on Briggs Road in Holmen to substations near Madison.
The lines would follow one of two general routes through the Coulee Region: north to Black River Falls and along the Interstate 90 corridor or west through Onalaska and West Salem and across Monroe County to the interstate.
Wisconsin ratepayers would support the cost, which is estimated at $540 million to $580 million depending on the route.
ATC and Xcel say the line, which would tie into another high-voltage project now being built between Hampton, Minn., and Holmen, would improve system reliability, deliver cheaper power for Wisconsin consumers and provide a pipeline for wind energy from Minnesota and Iowa to population centers to the east.
It will be up to the three-member Public Service Commission to determine whether the project is necessary and serves the public interest.
The commission can approve, deny or modify the proposal and will select the route if the project is approved.
A final decision is expected in April following testimony from applicants, 25 registered intervenors, and the public. Public hearings are expected to be held in December.
In a written statement, ATC said the draft study is an important step in the review process and encouraged those interested in the project to review the document and provide comments.
The project, informally proposed in 2010, has generated letters, comments and resolutions from about 100 units of government, including La Crosse County, the city of Onalaska and village of Holmen, which have either opposed the project or routes through their borders.
State departments of Natural Resources, Transportation, and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection each have a role in reviewing the application, as does the Wisconsin Historical Society.
At the federal level, the project would need permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Conservation Service, National Park Service and Federal Aviation Administration.
Save Our Unique Lands, one of several grassroots groups opposing the project, issued a brief statement Tuesday saying ratepayers are unlikely to be comfortable with the notion of further expanding transmission in Wisconsin.
“Our rates are at the top of the heap already because we added a robust transmission system since 2005,” spokesman Rob Danielson wrote in an email. “SOUL feels now is the moment to shift our attention to slashing waste and emission with efficiency and solar like other states. Keeping our energy dollars in state is a win-win for the environment and our pocket books.”
Tuesday’s release of the draft triggers a 46-day public comment period. Comments received by Oct. 3 will be used to prepare the final Environmental Impact Statement, which will become part of the official record the PSC uses to decide whether to approve the project.
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