Wis. counties seek additional information, change positions on Badger Coulee

A fifth Wisconsin county may join others in seeking additional information about the proposed Badger Coulee transmission project (PSC Docket 137-CE-160).

The Juneau County (Wis.) Board of Supervisors on July 17 voted to table a resolution opposing the proposed power lines. Instead, the board will vote Aug. 22 on whether to join other counties in a resolution seeking more information from developer American Transmission Company (ATC), or to move forward with a resolution of its own, county officials said.

“We’re still in the stages of drafting a resolution,” David Lasker, Juneau County corporation counsel, told TransmissionHub on July 19. “What it will say is still not clear, but what is clear is that it will request information necessary for the public to have a more complete understanding of this proposal and the need for it, and the right ways to go about accomplishing the objective.”

The general concerns are “environmental impact, its necessity, the alternatives for dealing with the perceived problem and which alternatives would be safest and least disruptive to the public if [the project] is even needed at all,” he said.

The county will also consider whether to join a resolution seeking more information that has been endorsed by Vernon, Sauk, Monroe and Richland counties in Wisconsin. Like similar resolutions from at least 50 towns and villages already on file with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW), that resolution requests more information about the costs and benefits of the proposed 150-mile, 345-kV project from ATC.

One of the signatory counties to that resolution, however, has changed its position from seeking more information to outright opposition.

Officials in Vernon County, which passed a resolution seeking more information on Aug. 16, 2011, now say they’re opposed to the line.

“We don’t really have concerns; we don’t want it in our area,” Herbert Cornell, Vernon County board chairman, told TransmissionHub on July 19.

Cornell, however, could not cite specific reasons for the change in position beyond saying, “We’re public servants, and the public tells us they don’t like this, and we’ll have to go along and abide by their wishes.”

ATC introduced plans for the Badger Coulee line from Middleton, near Madison, to north of La Crosse in 2010, but did not propose a specific route at that time. Earlier this year, the company narrowed its list of possible routes to four.

As proposed, the lines would touch nine Wisconsin counties: Columbia, Dane, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Sauk, Trempealeau and Vernon. None of the line’s proposed routes touch petition signatory Richland County, which is situated to the west of Sauk County.

Richland county officials say they wanted to show solidarity with their neighbors.

“We wanted to support those counties that were being affected,” Jeanetta Kirkpatrick, chair of the Richland County Board of Supervisors told TransmissionHub July 20. “If you look at the big picture, putting in more high-powered lines in not the answer; the answer is reduction.”

As proposed, the lines would originate, terminate or traverse seven of nine counties with multiple miles of new transmission. Approximately 16 miles of the line would follow I-90 through the northeast corner of Sauk County and approximately six miles of line would straddle the Vernon County/Juneau County border at the northeastern-most corner of Vernon County.

The $425m project has a planned in-service date of 2018.

This article was updated July 20 to include Kirkpatrick’s comments.