The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, in a Jan. 12 final decision, approved American Transmission Company’s (ATC) June 2017 application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) regarding new 345-kV electric transmission facilities.
As noted in the decision, the West Riverside interconnection project includes 345-kV electric transmission facilities required to connect the West Riverside Electric Generation facility (West Riverside) to ATC’s existing electric transmission system. The commission noted that it has previously approved the construction by Wisconsin Power and Light (WP&L) of West Riverside in a separate docket.
Describing the transmission project and its purpose, the commission noted that ATC proposes to build a new loop-in, loop-out 345-kV transmission line from its Line W10. The project includes construction of a new 345-kV substation to be named Kittyhawk; a new loop-in, loop-out 345-kV, double-circuit line that will tap into existing ATC Line W10; an upgrade to the protective relay packages at the existing Paddock and Rockdale substations; and an upgrade to the protective relay settings at the existing Rock River and Townline Road substations.
The line would be built using weathering steel monopole structures with davit arms or a delta configuration, depending on the route segments selected, the commission said.
ATC’s estimated cost of the project is between $40.95m and $42.36m, depending on the route alternative chosen.
The commission added that ATC proposed two route alternatives for the line: the 4.20-mile Route 1 and the 4.50-mile Route 2. The commission noted that its staff proposed a third alternative, Route 3, consisting of segments included in Routes 1 and 2.
The commission said that it authorizes Route 3 for the project as that route would reduce agricultural impacts from those resulting from either Route 1 or Route 2, including: the fewest acres of agricultural properties; the fewest acres of cropland and pasture; the fewest acres of prime farmland; and avoids to a greater extent impacts on existing agricultural irrigation systems.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) suggested such conditions as that ATC is to work with landowners, to the extent practicable, regarding the placement of facilities on their properties, including the location of off right of way (ROW) access roads, the commission said.
The commission noted that it finds those conditions reasonable in order to protect agricultural resources along the authorized project route.
A search of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Wisconsin Historic Preservation database revealed no known archaeological or historic resources near the proposed project routes. No known cemeteries or burial sites are located in the project vicinity, the commission added, noting that it finds that construction of the proposed facilities is not expected to affect any historic properties.
The project has the potential to impact rare resources found along the project routes, the commission said, adding that Routes 1 and 3 have one endangered reptile, seven rare plant species, two natural forest communities, and one threatened fish that may be present within their vicinity. Route 2 has the potential to impact the same resources as Routes 1 and 3, with the exception of the endangered reptile. The commission also said that most of the possible impacts to those species could be minimized or avoided entirely if ATC follows Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)-recommended measures.
The commission said that it finds it reasonable to require ATC to consult with the DNR Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation and follow its direction regarding the development of plans for plant surveys in areas where suitable habitat is present, as well as to implement mitigation strategies to minimize the potential effects on endangered and threatened species to ensure compliance with the state endangered species law.
The commission also said that it finds that it is reasonable that ATC be granted minor routing flexibility.
“The commission recognizes that the proposed project, as with any major construction project, will create impacts on the land use and development plans of affected areas, but finds that the proposed project, constructed on the authorized route, will minimize these impacts and will not unreasonably interfere with the orderly land use and development plans of the project area,” the commission said.
ATC estimates the project’s gross project cost, as modified by the final decision, to be about $42.1m, which does not include modifications to the project identified during the commission’s review and required by the final decision, such as the cost of a corner structure between “Segments C and E.” The commission added that the estimated costs are based on 2019, the projected in-service year for the project, and include transmission line, substation, existing transmission, and any distribution line relocation.
Construction is expected to begin in August, with completion by April 2019, the commission said.
Among other things, the commission said that ATC is to obtain all necessary federal, state, and local permits for a construction spread prior to commencement of beginning construction. For the purposes of that order condition, the commission said that construction spread means any subpart or segment of the project established by ATC for the purposes of managing construction of the project.
Also, the commission said that if ATC does not begin on-site physical construction of the authorized project within one year of the effective date of the final decision, the certificate authorizing the approved project for which construction has not commenced is to become void unless the applicant, for instance, is granted an extension by the commission, the commission said.