Government officials join opposition of new overhead power lines in Milwaukee County, Wisc.

Residents who want two proposed power lines in western Milwaukee County, Wisc., sited underground are gaining support from local political leaders.

“Residents are supportive of the need for new infrastructure,” a spokesperson for American Transmission Company (ATC) told TransmissionHub on Jan. 17, adding that many, however, are opposed to proposed aboveground routings.

“This is a very congested urban area so there is no good route, underground or overhead,” the spokesperson said.

Local leaders say the area’s character and high level of development demand an underground line. “It’s going to cost a little bit more,” Wauwatosa alderman Dennis McBride told TransmissionHub on Jan. 17. “That’s just the cost of doing business in a heavily congested, urban area that has a lot of natural attributes that need to be preserved.”

ATC said the two 138-kV lines, each less than two miles long, are needed to improve the reliability of the electric system that serves western Milwaukee County. The proposed north line would extend east from an existing 138-kV line to a new substation that would be built by We Energies, while the proposed east line would extend north from the existing 96th Street Substation to the new substation.

ATC is proposing two route options for each line. Portions of three of the proposed routes are buried, and a fourth route is completely underground. It is the aboveground portions that have attracted opposition.

“It’s an area that is growing by leaps and bounds and is going to need more power; no one is opposed to that,” McBride said.

McBride is opposed to overhead lines, and is particularly adamant that no lines – either above or below ground – be sited along Underwood Creek Parkway and through other areas in the county parks system, one of the proposed alignments for the north line. McBride and a Milwaukee County supervisor intend to introduce matching resolutions in the near future opposing that alignment.

Instead, McBride is recommending ATC consider placing the north line underground, along Watertown Plank Road, which is going to be completely dug up and reconstructed in 2014 in conjunction with the rebuilding of a busy freeway interchange. Working with the state department of transportation, McBride said, could diminish the expense of trenching for an underground line, thereby mitigating the overall cost.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Common Council approved a resolution Jan. 18 that puts the city on record requesting that the east power line be located underground.

ATC plans to file its application for the lines with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in February.

“In that application – and this is highly unusual – we will include cost and impact information for 20 different route segments,” the spokesperson said. At that time, the company will specify which routes it prefers, though it has said it generally prefers the least expensive options, which are overhead lines.

This story was updated on Jan. 17 to include comments from alderman McBride and on Jan. 19 to include the resolution approved by the Milwaukee Common Council.