Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Two Takes On Proposed Southwestern Wisconsin Transmission Line

Listen to a re-broadcast of the 6/14 Joy Cardin Show from WPR. Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center defends the Driftless at 21:00.

Concerned Public and Wisconsin Policymakers:

img_3657Construction of a huge, expensive new high capacity transmission powerline is being planned by the American Transmission Co. (ATC). This line would damage a 125 mile swath of the unique driftless area of Southwest Wisconsin and commit rate-payers to higher monthly bills for years to come.

The proposed corridors lie completely within the Driftless Area, the Midwest’s most unique eco-region and special scenic landscape. This area is recognized internationally and by the Departments of Natural Resources in four states as a region of critical conservation opportunity and concern. It contains multiple rare habitats and is the largest contiguous area of fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Mississippi River basin area.

The mission of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC) is to maintain and enhance the health, diversity and beauty of Southwest Wisconsin’s natural and agricultural landscape. This proposed new high capacity powerline severely threatens the heart of the Driftless Area negatively impacting the three qualities DALC is mandated to preserve. Therefore, after thorough investigation, DALC has concluded it must oppose the construction of this powerline.

Powerline Proposal Details

• Cardinal-Hickory Creek (CHC) would be a high-voltage 345kV transmission line supported by 17-story tall towers, the highest permitted by Wisconsin state law.
• It would run 125 miles from Dubuque, IA through many vital natural resources conservation areas to supply the substation in Middleton.

• It’s estimated to cost at least $500 million plus financing costs with a mandated 10.2% ($50 million or more) annual rate of return for the developers. These costs would be borne by the ratepayers over the anticipated 30-40 yr. lifetime of the line.
• ATC profits solely on the construction and maintenance of powerlines whether they are needed or not. They have every incentive to simply build new infrastructure regardless of need

Rationale for Opposition:

Supply exceeds demand in the Wisconsin electrical power market. Madison Gas & Electric’s electrical sales have declined over the past decade and Wisconsin Power & Light’s sales have remained essentially flat over the same time period even though both utilities have each gained about 11,000 net additional customers. New wind and gas plants have already been approved that will provide energy and local jobs. ATC has not demonstrated a need for additional imported out-of-state electrical supply to be carried by this proposed line.
Even if there were any need for more electricity supply, there are better, more cost-effective alternatives than building this costly new high-voltage transmission line. Wisconsin law requires that energy demands first be met with the most cost-effective options including energy efficiency and conservation. This proposed expensive line does not meet those criteria. Additionally, peak-demand energy needs can be better met through increased energy efficiency, distributed energy demand response, and solar energy. Peak energy demands cannot be met by the mixture of coal and wind generated electricity that this line would carry.
ATC has proposed multiple corridor options for the CHC transmission line, many of which are inconsistent with Wisconsin transmission siting laws. State law clearly intends that transmission avoid unnecessary impacts to the environment including natural and cultural resources and that new routes be created only as a last resort. The proposed line routes conflict with this intent. The unique features of the Driftless Area make trying to find corridors that comply with applicable statutes akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, concepts that are inherently mismatched.
Departments of Natural Resources have identified the Driftless Area in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as the most important ecological region in the Midwest. The proposed corridors plow through environmentally sensitive areas, those specifically designated to be avoided under Wisconsin law. The proposed massive infrastructure of towers and lines would damage these historical and natural resources and disrupt the scenic landscapes that are part of our heritage and draw others to our area as well.
The proposed transmission line is a “black cloud” that reduces property values, impairs conservation easements to protect lands, and stalls rural economic development. High-voltage transmission lines have a significant negative impact on property values. Additionally, ATC’s decision to delay the in-service date of the CHC line until 2023 exacerbates this problem. Land owners and buyers are reluctant to make commitments to potential land sales, property improvements and conservation projects because of uncertainties about future property values.

DALC’s Response

The DALC Board of Directors has retained the services of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a highly reputable Midwest non-profit environment and natural heritage law firm to guide and assist DALC in developing and carrying out a strategy to inform the public and

Wisconsin policy makers of the negative impacts inherent in this proposed project.  DALC has also hired a community organizer to coordinate its efforts to prevent the construction of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.

Moving Forward

Concerned individuals and organizations such as Driftless Defenders and SOUL of Wisconsin are coming together to oppose this expensive, unnecessary powerline expansion.  A strong, united voice will be needed to convince decision-makers this project does not serve the best interests of our communities.

For more information - Please contact Chuck Tennessen: charles@driftlessconservancy.org 

or contact the organizations below

Driftless Defenders

SOUL of Wisconsin

Make A Difference

Protect What Matters