Hundreds Turn Out for Public Input on ATC Line

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips
Maps of the ATC Cardinal Hickory Creek power line route were available to those who attend the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s public input event Nov. 12 at Madison Marriott West.

MIDDLETON–Hundreds of people from around the area streamed into Madison Marriot West to give input on the proposed American Transmission Company’s (ATC) Cardinal-Hickory Creek project (CHC). The sessions, held Nov. 12, were organized by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Wisconsin DNR. 

Attendees at the meetings could review maps, the application for construction of the line and give input on the environmental impact of the project, which would potentially run through the Driftless Area. Staff from PSC was on hand to answer questions about the project and the process.

PSC Communications Director Matthew Spencer said the commission welcomes input from the community. There have been sessions in Dodgeville and Middleton with a third planned in Lancaster. “It’s a great way for the public to give input, and public input goes a long way in an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement),” said Spencer. 

Some of the findings from the sessions help locate things that the commission may not already have mapped. For example, schools, historic sites, cultural areas and threatened or endangered species that might not have been discovered had it not been for locals coming forward. One example was a preschool near Dodgeville that was not included on the maps.

Questions from the crowd included how it would impact their properties, tourism and livelihood. There were concerns about the need for the line, the impact to the Driftless Area and whether or not the energy will stay in the state. 

Jeanne Wright and Gail Morton, both of Mt. Horeb traveled to Middleton to voice their concerns about the line. Neither woman has property directly affected by the construction of the power line, “To me, it’s ‘not in anyone’s back yard’,” said Morton. “It would go right behind the new hotel in Mt. Horeb.”

“We’ve already invested in tourism to highlight the area,” added Wright. 

The women also questioned the necessity of the transmission line. “I don’t think we need it at all,” Morton stated.

Wright agreed, “They just haven’t really made the argument.”

A rural Dane County dairy farmer, who wished to remain anonymous said he is not necessarily opposed to the power line but had some concerns. “I want to know how it will impact my property and my dairy business,” he explained. “I want to know how much land I might lose and if they plan to take it by eminent domain if I don’t want to sell.”

ATC has proposed two routes for the power line, a preferred route, which would stretch 87.4 miles, and an alternative that would be 102.7 miles. The line would stretch from Cassville to Middleton after crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, IA. The preferred line would cost $492.2 million and the alternate route, $543 million. If approved construction would take place from 2020-2023.

PSC representatives stressed that these meeting were to offer information and collect input on the impacts to the environment, and said general comments and concern were more suited for the public comment portion, which will be scheduled after all information has been gathered. The EIS should be completed by February and the public comment will follow and last 45 days. 

The commission will then make a decision on the project. They can approve, approve with changes or deny the application. Should either Iowa or Wisconsin chose not to approve the project, it would not be built. Spencer said he did not know if Iowa had approved the project.

Public input for the EIS can also be made at the PSC website, with the docket number 5-CE-146. Letters may also be submitted to: Public Service Commission, P.O. Box. 7854, Madison, WI. 53707-7854, Attention: Cindy Burtley. The deadline for comments is Jan. 4, 2019.

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