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November 21, 2019

10/11/2019 11:26:00 AM
PSC approves transmission line project with opposition

Four minutes before the announcement that the Public Service Commission had issued a written order for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line project the opposition had already made their statement.
The CHC approval was for an issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project which finalizes approval for the Wisconsin portion of the project. It also outlines the requirement that must be met in constructing the 345,000 volt transmission line and substation in Wisconsin.
Plans call for the 100 mile line to electrically connect Dane County with Dubuque County, Iowa. The project is expected to help improve access to lower cost power and renewable energy.
The Public Service Commission had verbally approved the project August 20 with the final approval on September 26.
The order includes some minor modifications to the route options presented by ATC, said Senior Project Manager Jake Valentine. He added the project has attempted to follow existing infrastructure where feasible.
"Ultimately 95% of the line will follow existing right of way, including utility corridors and along state highways," Valentine said.
Project partners are ATC, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative. They will begin contacting Wisconsin property owners along the PSC selected route beginning this fall.
Approval is still needed by the Iowa Utilities Board and three federal agencies and if granted, construction will begin in 2021 with an in-service date of 2023.
Opposition and a vow to continue to challenge the construction of the line came immediately from Driftless Area Land Conservancy and from the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
DALC board member Mark Mittelstadt spoke in opposition to the project.
"The DALC is extremely disappointed with the PSC's final written decision to approve ATC's application for an unneeded huge CHC transmission line with 17 story towers that would create irreparable and permanent damage to the scenic Driftless Area," Mittelstadt said. "The line also is expected to carry much less wind energy than coal and not the renewables conduit that the applicants suggest."
Mittelstadt said the PSC ignored vital evidence presented by clean energy experts at their public hearings which he says would be better than cutting a wide swath through the state's scenic driftless area natural resources and communities.
"PSC commissioners instead largely quoted experts hired by the applicants," Mittelstadt added.
He further pointed out that area units of government, school districts and state government representatives spoke against the project.
It is unknown at this time if the counties affected will join in a lawsuit to try and stop the project. At last month's Iowa County Board meeting a figure of $150,000 was quoted as being a potential county share which may be too steep for a county trying to build a new law enforcement center and also a nursing home.
Along with the DALC's dissatisfaction with the outcome the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF) also is opposed to the project.
"The WWF is extremely disappointed with the PSC's decision to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the CHC high voltage transmission line," said George Meyer, Executive Director. "The driftless area is truly a unique landscape and home to a large number of valuable and heavily used Federal, State and local recreational areas. There has been a substantial amount of public and private investment in the natural resources and the recreational facilities of the Driftless Area including hundreds of small businesses that derive their income based on the resulting tourism economy."
"The construction and maintenance of the proposed line and very high towers will have significant and undue adverse impacts on environmental values, including land and water resources," Meyer said. "The WWF will continue to challenge this destructive transmission line before federal and other state agencies and in the courts if necessary."
In other words the fight is still not over.

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