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Community weighs in on proposed transmission line from Middleton to Dubuque County, Iowa

DODGEVILLE (WKOW) — The Wisconsin Public Service Commission and the Department of Natural Resources held two “scoping sessions” Thursday in Dodgeville to discuss the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.

It was first chance for property owners to comment on the project that will electrically connect Middleton to Dubuque County, Iowa.

American Transmission Co. (ATC) is one of three utilities involved with the project.

“It is being proposed as a multi-value project that will help improve electric reliability, provide access to lower cost power and provide access to renewable energy,” said ATC spokesperson Kaya Freiman. “This is a 345,000 volt transmission line.”

According to Freiman, the proposal consists of two routes, but only one will be chosen.

“One of the routes, which is designated as the preferred route, will run along mostly existing transmission lines, then connect up to the highway. After that, it would head towards the Dodgeville area, following a highway and existing transmission line, connect to a substation in the Montfort area, and then follow an existing transmission line to the Iowa area,” Freiman said.

“The preferred route would be about 100 miles long and the alternate route would be about 120 miles long,” she said.

But the project has its skeptics. Dr. Gloria Belken has lived along one of the proposed routes for 50 years and has concerns about the project’s environmental impact.

“Destroying the environment, the ecological. All the species, the plants and just going through and destroying that land as they go through and put the poles up,” Belken said.

“There will be reviews done at the state level, as well as the federal level. We expect this comprehensive review to take place,” Freiman said. “One of the reasons why the state statues require and utilities look to route along existing infrastructure when they’re proposing a new project is to help minimize environmental impact.”

Belken also worries about emissions coming from the towers.

“EMF, which gives you a magnetic field, that can cause leukemia in children,” she said.

Belken isn’t buying the argument that the project would help lower utilities costs for electricity users.

“We have 44 solar panels. So we don’t necessarily need anymore electricity. And actually the electricity is going down because we have appliances now that are much, much better. More energy efficient,” Belken said.

The estimated cost of the project is about $500 million and would be shared by electric user throughout the region.

“So at the end of the day, Wisconsin electric customers would pay about $66 million or about 10 to 15 percent of the project cost,” Freimand said.

The project requires multiple regulatory reviews and provide permits including the Public Service Commission, the Iowa Utilities Board, as well as a federal environmental review.

If the project is approved, construction would start in the 2020 or 2021 time frame. The estimated in-service date is 2023.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission encourage people to engage in the meetings and hearings as they move through the process.

There will be additional scoping meetings on November 12th in Middleton and November 14th in Lancaster.

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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