After completion of the draft environment impact statement by the Wisconsin Public Service Comission, the Badger-Coulee Transmission Line project has Finished a second stage for receiving public comment.
Visit www.psc.wi.gov to see the environmental impact statement.
According to the draft, American Transmission LLC and Northern States Power filed the application for construction of the 345 kilo-volt line. The route currently has two separate paths from the Briggs Road Substation in La Crosse County to the Madison Substation and then the Cardinal Substation in Dane County. Some segments of the proposed plan are used in both routes. The Public Service Commission will decide to accept, modify or reject the construction project.
The commission could make a decision by the end of the year. If approved, the project could start construction by spring.
A onetime environmental impact fee would be paid during the year construction begins. According to the statement, the fee is equal to 5 percent of the cost of the transmission line and would be paid in a 50/50 split between the county in which construction takes place and the towns, cities or villages in which construction takes place. A smaller annual fee will also be split between municipalities.
The power companies list the need for the project as improving the electric system reliability, delivering economic savings for Wisconsin utilities and expanding infrastructure to support the public policy of using more renewable energy, according to the impact statement.
Critics of the plan have expressed concerns about the land to be impacted, animals to be impacted, the unsightliness of the project and also debate the true need for such a project.
The impact statement includes a number of alternatives, including a low voltage alternative. The details of these are minimal compared to the full impact statement done on the two proposed routes.
The environmental impact statement discusses a host of possible issues with the project. It gives information on everything from plants and animal impact to resident and viewing impact. Two major sections of the power line project affect the Dells area the most — the section from Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells and the section from Wisconsin Dells to Caledonia.
The route from Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells comprises segment M. According the statement, M and K will follow Interstate 90/94 south for 7.5 miles. Segment L leaves the interstate and follows a railroad until reconnecting with the interstate.
The route from Wisconsin Dells to Caledonia contains a segment J which follows the interstate. According to the statement, it could possibly connect with segment I which passes through Wisconsin Dells and crosses at the Kilbourn Dam then runs to Interstate 39. I will follow a railroad while alternative H continues to follow Interstate 90/94. Both proposals are about 24 miles.
The statement said no agricultural land is found in segments L and K of the Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells proposal. Segment M has 1.4 acres of active agricultural land in the project’s right of way. The path using M and K would clear 35.5 acres of upland woods and 12.8 acres of forested wetlands. The M and L segment would clear 48 acres of upland woods and 10.3 acres of forested wetlands.
M and K would see impact on 33.6 wetland acres compared to 29.1 acres for M and L, according to the statement. M and K would cross six waterways while M and L would cross four.
The commission recommends a survey of birds along segment M if used. Numerous areas along the path could support rare birds, according to the statement. Segment K may also have some birds. Segment L contains no rare bird occurrences. State endangered mussels and fish are a concern in both segments K and L.
A major concern of the path from Wisconsin Dells to Caledonia is the Aldo Leopold Foundation site and Pine Island Wildlife area. The Public Service Commission received multiple statements of concern regarding the power lines proximity to the area, according to the statement. The cranes in the area are known to have a low flight pattern. Bird habitats could be affected and birds could be at risk to running into the power lines in the area. It is also possible the lines could be seen from the area around the Leopold Shack — making it unsightly.
Segments J and H could impact 69 acres of agricultural land with J and I impacting 33.7, according to the statement. J and H would clear 103.8 acres of upland woods and 20.1 acres of forested wetlands. J and I would clear 51.2 acres of upland woods and 16.9 acres forested wetlands. J and H impact 60.7 acres of wetlands and J and I impact 98.9 acres of wetlands.
J and H would have 12 water way crossings with J and I having 19, according to the statement. Multiple bird species are a concern, including the bald eagle. Mussels, fish and amphibians are concerns in both paths.
The statement gives little credence to concerns about electromagnetic field exposure. The statement says, “Overall, most scientists are convinced that the evidence that power line fields cause or contribute to cancer is weak to nonexistent. The biological studies conducted to-date have not been able to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to magnetic fields and human disease. Scientists have been unable to identify any plausible biological mechanism by which EMF exposure might cause human disease. There is a general consensus within the scientific community that exposure to EMF is not responsible for human disease.”