Wauwatosa council to consider endorsing modified underground route for power line

The Wauwatosa common council on June 26 will consider a proposal that would endorse siting one of two proposed 138-kV transmission lines under a residential street instead of burying the line next to the street, as proposed by project developer American Transmission Company (ATC)  (Docket No. 5-CE-139).

“The problem with the ATC proposal is that it runs north of the street, into peoples’ front yards, and does significant damage to a number of old-growth trees and yards in that neighborhood,” city attorney Alan Kesner told TransmissionHub on June 26. “It also prevents future planting if you have an underground line.”

The line, which would connect into the existing grid from the west, is one of two proposed lines that would meet increasing demand in an area of the county that includes the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The other proposed line would extend into the area from the south.

Kesner is recommending that the common council, the Wisconsin term for city council, endorse burying the line from the west into the county grounds area underneath residential Walnut Road.

“All we’re doing at this point is evaluating … the possibility of putting it in the road in Walnut Road instead of going through the peoples’ yards,” Kesner said. “That was the initial concern that we heard when there was opposition that we don’t want them to take down all our trees.”

While the proposal addresses concerns about tree removal and other damage to landscape, Kesner said some residents are still unhappy with the possible alignment. “They have expressed their concern strongly that even putting [the line] in the roadway doesn’t solve all of their problems, and they have other concerns, so that will be part of the debate the council has to address,” he said.

The project, proposed by We Energies and ATC consists of the two 138-kV lines, each less than two miles long, which are needed to improve the reliability of the electric system that serves a rapidly growing area of the county. Demand in the area is expected to double as soon as 2016, according to ATC.

“The common council will decide what they prefer [based on factors including] neighbor opposition and other issues,” Kesner said. “That’s going to help guide our position in the [Wisconsin Public Service Commission] PSC proceeding when we put our testimony together before the Aug. 13 date that testimony is due.

A hearing before the PSC is currently scheduled for Sept. 19, Kesner said.

The PSC will determine the final routes for the two lines. ATC expects the PSC to take as long as a year to review the project application, hold public and technical hearings, and do a detailed analysis before rendering a decision.

The transmission lines and ATC substation facilities are planned to be placed in service by March 2015. The cost of the project is estimated at $20m to $40m.