Utilities in Wisconsin and Iowa are narrowing potential routes for a high-voltage power line between Dane County and Iowa that would be built in the early 2020s.
The project, first proposed years ago, has seen delays in part because of a dispute over ownership of the project as well as the regulatory challenges associated with federal approvals needed to cross the Mississippi River.
The line is now forecast to cost $500 million, up from an estimate of $450 million discussed earlier this year. That earlier cost of the project had been described as preliminary, as detailed engineering of the project was still pending.
The power line linking the Madison area with northeastern Iowa has been in the planning stages for years, but is still at least six years from being completed. The developers are American Transmission Co. of Pewaukee, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative.
Changes in management involving ownership of the project contributed to the delay, and the difficulty of permitting power-line projects across the Mississippi River is another factor.
Such crossings require approval from federal agencies, whereas lines that lack major river crossings require approval from state utility and environmental regulators.
The corridors for the project have been updated following open houses in May, according to Pete Holtz, project manager for American Transmission Co. of Pewaukee.
“The revised preliminary corridors include the addition of approximately 200 parcels and removal of more than 2,800 parcels from the maps,” he said in a statement.
Groups that have been active in power-line cases may get involved in this one to challenge the need for the project and raise concerns about the cost, routing concerns near homes and farms, and whether the utilities are proposing to spend too much money to build it.
ATC, ITC and Dairyland recently sent notification letters to property owners who may be affected by the project and a postcard to those whose parcels have been removed from the revised preliminary corridors.
The project would begin at an ITC Midwest substation in Dubuque County, Iowa, cross into Wisconsin in Cassville and then link to a new substation near west of Dodgeville before extending to the town of Middleton in Dane County.
ATC and ITC each have a roughly 45.5% stake in the project, and Dairyland Power Cooperative has an ownership stake that’s estimated at 9%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service will review the project, as will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The project is part of a series of high-voltage power lines across the Upper Midwest that the operator of the regional power grid and wholesale energy market has endorsed because they will improve reliability, access to lower-cost energy in the wholesale power market and enable more wind energy in Iowa to be added to the grid.
In other transmission developments:
• The state Public Service Commission and federal energy regulators have given the go-ahead to Fortis Inc. of St. John’s, Newfoundland, to buy ITC Holdings, the Michigan-based parent of ITC Midwest.
• Xcel Energy, Dairyland Power Cooperative and WPPI Energy in Sun Prairie and two utilities in Minnesota have completed a 156-mile 345,000-volt line linking La Crosse and Rochester, Minn. The project was estimated to cost $475 million.
“This line makes it feasible for WPPI Energy to buy more renewable energy for the customers of our member municipal electric utilities,” said Tim Noeldner, vice president of WPPI in a statement.
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