BULLETIN: Wisconsin PSC unanimously approves CapX2020 line

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) on May 10 unanimously approved the Alma-La Crosse portion of the CapX2020 345-kV Twin Cities-Rochester-La Crosse transmission line.

The preliminary approval comes less than a month after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved the route permit application for the Minnesota portion of the CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line.

In addition to agreeing that the Wisconsin portion of the line is needed and that a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) should be issued, the three-member panel also approved the Q1-Galesville route with a direction that the route be modified to avoid the sensitive areas of the Van Loon wetland complex and the Black River Bottoms.

Commissioner Eric Calisto said he was “not persuaded” by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT) claims that it could not permit any of the Q1-Highway 35 alternatives or the Q1-Galesville route. Commissioner Ellen Nowak called the modified Q1-Galesville route, “a good compromise.”

However, because the modification will change the total approved cost of approximately $202m for the Q1-Galesville route, “a firm [cost] number will now be calculated by the applicants and submitted to the commission for consideration,” a PSC spokesperson told TransmissionHub May 10. The PSC said details about the cost of the modified route must be filed by May 18 with replies due by May 24.

The panel rejected notions that energy efficiency and conservation measures could obviate the need for the line. “Energy efficiency and conservation measures are near and dear to my heart,” said Chairman Phil Montgomery, who cited his long track record of supporting such measures. “[However,] we can’t conserve our way to a level of load reduction to justify not building this project,” he said.

The PSC also voted unanimously to have an independent environmental monitor oversee the project, a move Nowak called “reasonable due to this project’s size and complexity.” Environmental groups including Clean Wisconsin called for the use of an independent monitor to help ensure that natural resources are adequately protected.

In addition, the PSC unanimously approved siting the Mississippi River crossing at Alma, Wis., unanimously approved siting the Briggs Road substation near the village of Holmen on the west side of Briggs Road, and unanimously rejected undergrounding portions of the line.

According to the CapX2020 website, the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line will improve reliability for the Twin Cities, Rochester and La Crosse areas, as well as improve access to generation in the south east part of Minnesota.

The double circuit capable 345-kV line will run between a new substation near Hampton, Minn., the proposed North Rochester substation between Zumbrota and Pine Island, Minn., and continue on to cross the Mississippi River near Alma.

The May 10 action by the PSC approved the portion of the 345-kV line that will run from Alma to the proposed Briggs Road substation near the village of Holmen.

“Now we have a route, and we hope to start construction in 7 to 8 months,” a CapX2020 spokesperson told TransmissionHub after the Minnesota PUC’s approval.

The PSC is statutorily required to issue a final decision by June 4. The final decision is expected to be finalized at the PSC’s May 30 meeting.