The Baraboo Bluffs area — one of the most scenic in southern Wisconsin — no longer is under consideration as a potential route for the proposed high-voltage Badger Coulee transmission line.
American Transmission Co. has pared its options. On Tuesday, the company released its latest map of possible routes for the $425 million power line that would extend from north of La Crosse to the Madison area.
The Kickapoo Valley has also been removed from the list of potential routes.
The proposed routes no longer run through Baraboo and Reedsburg or the towns of LaValle, Winfield or Dellona. Over the past year, each of those municipalities passed resolutions against having the line run through their areas, with most suggesting that ATC use the Interstate 90/94 corridor instead.
“I think the majority of the people are very appreciative that it’s not coming through our township,” town of Winfield chairman Ron Churchill said. “For example, it was supposed to come through a farm that my son owns that we’ve had in the family for 100 years, and it was the same for other people. Obviously, we were a little upset about it.”
Six public meetings are scheduled in April to discuss the plans, at locations that include Wisconsin Dells and Waunakee. ATC is sending letters this week to about 9,000 landowners and public officials who could be affected by the preliminary routes.
Among the features of the narrowed list:
• In Sauk County, paths through Baraboo and Reedsburg have been removed from consideration. Only the northeast corner, where I-90/94 cuts through, is still among the options.
• Vernon County, where the Kickapoo Valley is centered, is no longer on the list.
• Prospective paths heading northwest from the Madison area would primarily follow either I-90/94, U.S. Highway 12 or existing transmission corridors. One set of options would cut west at Lyndon Station to the La Crosse area; another set would run further north, turning west at one of three possible sites from the Warrens area toward Black River Falls.
After public meetings last summer involved a broader list of potential routes, ATC examined them more closely and considered public and governmental input, said Sarah Justus, ATC manager of local relations. As a result, areas that posed serious challenges — electrical, environmental or otherwise — were excluded.
“We learned a lot about the environmental sensitivity of the Baraboo Bluffs. It’s something we take very seriously,” Justus said.
The Kickapoo Valley also raised environmental concerns, as well as constraints on routing electricity, she said.
Kaya Freiman, another ATC spokesperson, said the now-inactive portions of the routes could come back under consideration at a later date, but only if new information becomes available that makes the currently proposed routes infeasible.
“It’s possible that certain segments that could be back in the future, but it would be typically a smaller portion or segment,” Freiman said. “There would have to be something like a constructability challenge that would force us to look at other areas that we’ve labeled as inactive.”
ATC also will be sending letters to approximately 30,000 residents along the now-inactive routes to let them know their area is no longer being considered. If an inactive route comes back into consideration, ATC would also send letters to the affected landowners.
Citizen groups opposed to a new Badger Coulee line said they think their outcry made a difference.
“We think the new routes indicate the major impact that citizens have had on the process,” said Joe Morse, of Winona, Minn., a spokesman for Citizens Energy Task Force, based in La Crosse. But he added, “I wouldn’t say we’re happy. We don’t think this (transmission line) is needed at all. We think it is a waste of money and a waste of energy.”
Citizens Energy Task Force and Soul of the Kickapoo, based in La Farge, both are questioning the need for Badger Coulee and for CapX2020, a 700-mile series of lines proposed to run from the Dakotas to western Wisconsin, connecting to Badger Coulee.
Beverly Vaillancourt, chairwoman of the Town of LaValle, said that while she’s delighted the proposed routes no longer come through LaValle, it doesn’t negate her position that the line is unnecessary.
“When you look at the projected growth of electric use, it’s projected to be less than 1 percent for the next 25 years,” Vaillancourt said. “Therein lays my great concern and my great question.
“I think everyone in Sauk County recognized that Sauk County is not the place for these lines. Then, the question is whether any place in Wisconsin is the place for these.”
Later this year, ATC will narrow the possibilities to two or more final routes, and public meetings will be held. From there, the company plans to finalize a route and place an application with the state Public Service Commission next year.
If approved, construction would begin in 2016 with completion scheduled for 2018.