Wauwatosa city official to seek support for undergrounding of new power lines

An alderman for the city of Wauwatosa, Wis., on Jan. 31 will ask the city’s Community Development Committee to support his resolution calling on American Transmission Company (ATC) to place new 138-kV lines underground.

ATC said two planned 138-kV lines, each less than two miles long, are needed to improve the reliability of the electric system that serves an area of western Milwaukee County that includes the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Fourth district alderman Dennis McBride, who does not dispute the need for additional power to the area, wants ATC to consider an underground route along a road that is scheduled to be completely rebuilt in 2014 instead of a route along a scenic parkway.

“We’ve never had power lines going down parkways before,” McBride told TransmissionHub in a Jan. 17 interview, referring to the proposed route along Underwood Creek Parkway. “Once you start putting overhead power lines – or any power lines – through natural areas like that, you’re going to diminish the environmental quality of the area and you’re going to diminish the aesthetic values and lower the property values of adjacent properties by a considerable amount.

A spokesperson for ATC told TransmissionHub on Jan. 30 that the route McBride prefers, along Watertown Road, is one of the alignments under review. “We’ve been working with [the State Department of Transportation] on timing and the possibility of going underground east of Highway 100, so that is one of the options we are proposing.”

However, the spokesperson said the alignment along Underwood Creek Parkway, which McBride strongly opposes, would in part follow an existing railroad right-of-way that is adjacent to the parkway.

“We were looking for existing corridors in this study area and the railroad track presented an opportunity,” the spokesperson said.

That’s not good enough for McBride. “We’re opposed to overhead lines and we are specifically opposed to overhead lines going down Underwood Creek Parkway and through other natural areas in the county parks system,” he said.

Even if McBride’s resolution does win the support of the city’s Community Development Committee, the final decision will be up to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW).

“The [PSCW’s] regulatory process will include public hearings as well as technical hearings, and that would be the time for those in the community who have a preference to express that preference to the PSC,” the ATC spokesperson said.

Hearing dates have not been set.

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