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Plain Talk: Share your views on ATC’s proposed southwestern Wisconsin line

The battle over ATC’s plan to build a new high-voltage transmission line from Dubuque to Middleton, with towers as tall as a 17-story building, is far from over.

Although the state Public Service Commission has accepted ATC’s preferred route through southwestern Wisconsin, it still hasn’t given the transmission company permission to build it.

Instead, it has scheduled another series of hearings for later in the month to gather more views and information about the effects of the line on the region’s environment.

Proponents of the $500 million “Cardinal-Hickory Creek” line claim it’s needed to transport to southern Wisconsin “clean” energy generated by wind turbines in Iowa. The approved route would roughly follow Highway 151 from Dubuque to Mount Horeb and then jog north to the Middleton substation. ATC, a subsidiary owned by a consortium of state power companies, wants to construct this line for its utility partners, ITC Midwest and the Dairyland Power Cooperative.

But there’s been a big pushback from farmers, other landowners and a coalition of environmentalists led by the Midwest-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. They fear the degradation of the revered Driftless area’s landscape. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation sees harm to fish and wildlife habitat, as well.

But, the main argument is that the line isn’t needed in the first place. Opponents see it as another massive burden on ratepayers while the reality is that electricity demand is flat and even declining.

The two have been engaged in a spirited campaign through ads and community meetings to push their views.

Former Wisconsin legislator Spencer Black, who writes a regular environmental column for The Capital Times, noted that ATC has been claiming the power line is needed “to keep the lights on.” He described that claim as “not true” and insisted that the project is simply not necessary.

You can get involved by attending one of the hearings the PSC has slated for the end of June.

They are Tuesday, June 25, at 2 and 6 p.m. at Lancaster’s Youth and Agriculture Center; Wednesday, June 26, at 2 and 6 p.m. at the PSC’s Madison hearing room at 4822 Madison Yards Way; and Thursday, June 27, at 2 and 6 p.m. at the Dodger Bowl Lanes in Dodgeville.