Juneau County is likely to join four other Wisconsin counties in asking the state Public Service Commission and American Transmission Co. for more information about the company’s proposed Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to table a resolution that would have registered the county’s official opposition to proposed power line routes through southern Juneau County and support proposed routes that would follow the Interstate 90/94 corridor.
Instead, the board will vote in August on a different resolution already endorsed by Vernon, Sauk, Monroe and Jackson counties that demands more information about the costs and benefits of the project.
The board’s decision came after discussion that included comment and advice from the public.
“In order to follow the correct legal procedures and retain all of our negotiation powers, it is not appropriate now to oppose the line,” Rob Danielson told the board.
Danielson is a resident of the Vernon County town of Stark, which has formed a committee – the Energy Planning Information Committee – chaired by Danielson to study the proposed power line and its possible impacts.The resolution Danielson encouraged the county to adopt would request that the Public Service Commission ensure that “an impartial study of all solutions for this proposal” gets issued before the current list of four possible routes is narrowed this fall.
In 2010, the American Transmission Co. introduced plans for the Badger Coulee line from Middleton, near Madison, to north of La Crosse but proposed no specific route.
Earlier this year, the company narrowed its list of possible routes to four – all crossing Juneau County. Two of the four routes would follow Interstate 90/94. Two others, sometimes referred to as the southern routes, would follow different routes west of the city of Elroy but converge to form a single route entering Juneau County at a point just south of Elroy and move east to the interstate along a line near the border of the towns of Lemonweir and Seven Mile Creek.
The board’s voice vote to table the original resolution Tuesday came after a failed attempt by Supervisor Joan Koscal to modify it with language similar to that proposed by Danielson.
Koscal said she thinks the power line offers no benefit to Juneau County residents.
“We’re just providing a corridor for the power to go east,” Koscal said.
That opinion was shared Tuesday by others, including Steve Powers, who lives between Mauston and Lyndon Station. He said he now lives with large power-line poles in a 20-acre field he owns.
“That doesn’t bother me because that serves the community, the neighborhood,” Powers said. “But these other poles, the power is going right straight through. It doesn’t do any good for Juneau County. In fact it is, I think, a negative effect on the county.”
But Supervisor John Wenum said that the nation has spent a century building electric infrastructure and bringing power to rural areas like Juneau County.
“At some point, power lines had to cross somebody’s land and cause some inconvenience,” Wenum said.
Board Chairman Al Peterson said he thinks Juneau County residents will indirectly benefit from the project. “You’ll benefit from it by a lower bill some time in the future,” he said.
But Mauston resident John Dunn said the facts don’t support the claim that the power line will lead to cheaper electricity.
“Actually, your bills will increase because you’ll be paying for the cost of this massive infrastructure being put in,” Dunn said.
Dunn said that Wisconsin is adequately served with power and, in fact, the state is a net exporter of power. The Badger Coulee project, Dunn said, is about profits for the company.
“What this project is for is to take power in the Dakotas where it’s produced at 7 or 8 cents per kilowatt hour and deliver it to the East Coast where it sells for almost twice that,” Dunn said.
Peterson said he invited the company to send an official to Tuesday’s meeting but none attended.
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