Residents applaud recommendation to place Wauwatosa line underground

The head of the Milwaukee Montessori School is applauding the recent recommendation by We Energies’ CEO and two local officials that a new 138-kV power line proposed as part of the Western Milwaukee County Electric Reliability Project be buried (Docket No. 5-CE-139).

In an Aug. 15 letter to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW), Montessori school head Monica Van Aken praised the officials for their “support of these community sensitive underground solutions,” calling an underground route “necessary to avoid deleterious impacts on the Milwaukee Montessori School and its students.”

Her letter was in response to a July 30 letter signed by We Energies’ President and CEO Gale Klappa, Milwaukee Mayor Thomas Barrett, and Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy, supporting an underground alignment for the proposed north-south power line.

“We Energies has evaluated three potential underground routes east of Hwy. 45 for the proposed new power line,” the three said in the letter to the PSCW. “We Energies believes that these three routes are feasible from an engineering perspective, are cost effective underground solutions for this highly urbanized area, are reasonable alternatives for the commission to consider and recommends that one of these routes be selected for the proposed 138-kV power line.”

We Energies and the county recommend that either the underground alternative known as S-2, which runs along 95th Street, or the underground alternative known as S-3, which runs parallel to the Hwy. 45 right-of-way behind of the Milwaukee Montessori School and St. Therese Church be selected as the route of the new line.

“I am confident that our designers would be able to work with your team to find a location that would be mutually acceptable to all parties,” the letter said.

The project consists of two 138-kV lines which are needed to improve the reliability of the electric system that serves the rapidly growing County Grounds area of the county. The area includes the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Local residents, citizens’ groups, and civic leaders have been vocal about undergrounding both lines. However, the letter addressed only the north-south line, and the utility “does not have a recommendation on the east-west line, and none is contemplated at this time,” a We Energies spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 17.

The east-west line would extend from a new Milwaukee County substation to existing ATC lines less than two miles to the west. Two routes are proposed. Route A is the Walnut Road alignment, while Route B follows Watertown Plank Road and Underwood Creek Parkway.

State regulators are expected to hold hearings on the project in November and decide early next year whether the lines are needed. The PSCW would then select routes for the two lines and decide whether they should be built underground.

The PSC will determine the final routes for the two lines. Co-developer American Transmission Company (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 in service by March 2015. The cost of the project is estimated at $20m to $40m.

We Energies is a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy (NYSE:WEC).