We Energies’ CEO endorses undergrounding second Wauwatosa line

We Energies’ CEO Gale Klappa has come out in support of undergrounding the second 138-kV power line proposed as part of the Western Milwaukee County Electric Reliability Project, a We Energies spokesperson confirmed to TransmissionHub Oct. 9 (Docket No. 5-CE-139).

Klappa, whose company is co-developing the project with American Transmission Company (ATC), expressed his support for siting the east-west line underground in recent conversations with community groups that also support undergrounding the lines.

“This is an area that is [a] densely populated, environmentally sensitive area,” the spokesperson said, adding that placing both lines underground “would be feasible from an engineering and technical standpoint.”

While Klappa’s support for undergrounding was mentioned in an Oct. 5 letter sent to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) by the group Preserve Our Parks, a PSCW spokesperson told TransmissionHub that such a third-party reference does not make Klappa’s comment an official part of the record.  If it was to be made part of the record, “then we would take a look at it,” the spokesperson said.

Klappa’s support for undergrounding both lines marks an expansion of the position expressed in July, when he co-signed a letter with Milwaukee Mayor Thomas Barrett and Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy supporting an underground alignment for the north-south line that would serve the rapidly growing County Grounds area of Wauwatosa, Wis.

In that letter, Klappa said three underground north-south routes that We Energies evaluated were feasible from an engineering perspective, are cost effective underground solutions, and are reasonable alternatives for the commission to consider. The letter concluded by recommending that an underground route be selected for the proposed north-south power line.

In its preliminary findings regarding the environmental impacts of proposed alignments for the two lines, PSCW staff evaluated two alignments for the north-south line that run completely underground. However, none of the alignments proposed and evaluated for the east-west line run completely underground.

According to the utility’s spokesperson, Klappa and the community groups support modifying one of the routes proposed by ATC as detailed in a resolution passed by the Wauwatosa Common Council Sept. 18.

That resolution calls for modifying proposed Route A by placing the transmission line under Walnut Road rather than north of the right-of-way as originally proposed, then connecting the line to an underground segment included in ATC’s proposal by undergrounding the segment from the east end of Walnut Road to Watertown Plank Road.

We Energies will build the necessary substation facilities, while ATC will build the transmission lines. Calls seeking comment from ATC were not returned by press time Oct. 10.

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