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Public hearings offered for power line proposal

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
January 14, 2008
— With concerns about forest and bike trails, Janesville officials have voiced their preferences on a power line proposed to stretch from Beloit past the city of Janesville and into southeast Dane County.

Now area residents will have their turn.


The Wisconsin Public Service Commission will hold public hearings at 3 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Janesville Town Hall, 1628 N. Little Court, located off County A. The commission will take comments from the public about the Paddock-Rockdale transmission line and its two proposed routes.


Technical comments will be made at a 9 a.m. hearing, also Feb. 13.


The American Transmission Company advocates building the 345-kilovolt line, saying it will produce cost savings by accessing additional energy sources outside of Wisconsin and reduce line congestion. However, those long-term savings won’t come cheap, as the company’s west route proposal has an estimated $132.70 mile price tag and a $210.80 price tag for the east route.


Both routes begin at the Paddock substation just west of the city of Beloit and mainly follow existing power line, road or railroad corridors. The west route continues north from the Paddock substation 34.7 miles into Dane County and to the Rockdale substation.


The alternative route turns east after the Paddock substation, heads north, enters the city of Janesville, crosses Tripp Road, parallels a portion of Highway 11 while continuing north to the Dane County line.


The city of Janesville supports the west route, City Manager Steven Sheiffer said in an Oct. 31 submission to the commission, because the east route significantly would affect development on the city’s west side.


The commission should consider the line’s impacts on present and future land use, in addition to the higher cost and the need for more right of way required by the east route, Sheiffer said.


City Parks Director Tom Presny asked the commission in November not to select the east route as it would cross Rockport Park and pool, the Cook Memorial Arboretum and Rock River Parkway.


The new line would require 6 more acres of right of way if it crossed Rockport Park and would require 3 more acres at Cook Arboretum, one of the county’s largest contiguous forest tracts. The line also impacts 1.5 acres of the bike trails along the Rock River Parkway, Presny said.


The transmission company also prefers the west route, said spokesperson Mary Carpenter, because it doesn’t require additional right of way, costs millions of dollars less to build and impacts fewer homes.


Along the east route, mostly north of Janesville, 27 residences are within 100 feet of the center line of the 200-foot-wide right of way, while six residences are within 100 feet of the west route’s center line.


The west route also comes out better in the final environmental impact statement completed earlier this month. The east route would require an additional 5.3 miles of right of way and affect 158 acres while the west route could be built within existing transmission line corridors.


Both routes cross wetlands and waterways, but the west route follows an existing power line while the east route crosses the Rock River, Bass Creek and an unnamed creek outside of existing rights of way, according to the report.


Although a final design hasn’t been selected, the line would consist primarily of weathered steel poles, some as tall as 189 feet. Poles 90 feet tall would be used where the new line would be constructed along side an existing power line, Carpenter said.


The taller poles would be needed when adding the old line to poles that support the new line, she said.


Local governments would receive one-time and annual payments to offset the impact of the new line. Rock County would receive a $1.8 million one-time payment but no annual fee while governments slated to receive the highest one-time payments are the town of Rock, the town of Beloit and the town of Janesville, which would collect $513,472, $302,279 and $508,635, respectively, and annual payments of $61,617, $36,274 and $61,036, respectively.


The Paddock-Rockdale project has generated less public opposition than other ATC projects either in Madison or northern Wisconsin, Carpenter said, likely because either route falls largely within an existing right of way.


“That just creates less controversy when you don’t have to acquire right of way or clear some trees, which can happen when the project is all new,” she said.


The commission is expected to decide this summer on whether or not the power line is needed and, if so, the route. If approved, construction is scheduled to begin this fall, and the line would become operational by spring 2010.


To learn more
More information about the project is available at the PSC’s Web site, psc.wi.gov/apps/erf_search/default.aspx, by entering 137 CE 147 in the utility docket.

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