A project map from American Transmission Company (ATC), dated August 2013, is available here.
The purpose of this line is to address electric system reliability issues--both locally and in the Midwest--while enabling the transfer of renewable energy from wind farms in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
This line is also designed to provide otherwise isolated locations in Wisconsin with convenient access to transmission infrastructure. ATC intends to use this line to deliver renewable power to populated areas in eastern Wisconsin as well.
Finally, the increased access to low-cost wind power is estimated to create economic savings throughout the region.
The proposed route extends from La Crosse, WI to northern Dane County, spanning a distance of approximately 150-170 miles. At Holmen, this project will connect with the CapX2020 project.
Through stakeholder feedback, ATC has formed a preferred and alternate route, which can be found here.
Both the preferred and alternate route were introduced to the public in October of 2012. The preferred follows I-94 from northern Dane County to Black River Falls, west to Blair and then south to Holmen. That route would follow an existing corridor of smaller transmission lines with already established easements--90% of the corridor--impacting fewer populated areas.
The alternate route runs north near the interstate to Portage, then northwest along Highway 16. At Lyndon station, it goes west through Elroy to Cashton, north to Rockland and west along I-90 to Onalaska and Holmen. This latter option crosses downtown Wisconsin Dells, an important state tourist attraction. Importantly, only 60% of this route follows existing corridors, though it is shorter and therefore the less expensive option.
Throughout this process, many organizations, including the Center for Rural Affairs, have expressed support for the preferred route. This option ensures that 90% of the route uses existing utility and state and federal highway corridors.
A series of open house sessions during October of 2012 presented the two route options chosen, solicited feedback, and addressed any remaining concerns.
ATC applied with the Public Service Commission in late October 2013. The PSC will hold public and technical hearings throughout 2013 and 2014. A final decision is expected in 2015. The PSC delayed the project in November 2013, citing application deficiencies, and asking for a better assessment of need for the project. The developers expect to provide a new application and a study of need sometime in 2014.
After the PSC granted approval to the new application, the developers announced new scoping meetings that would take place in late May and early June of 2014. The route for the project was approved in the spring of 2015.
Construction is slated to begin in 2016, bringing the project to completion in 2020.
Since the La Crosse to Madison line is 345 kV or greater, ATC must first file a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC). By law, ATC must submit two routes for review. ATC estimates that the process will likely take 12 to 18 months
Once deemed complete, the application is analyzed for potential impacts; and is subject to approval, denial, or modification. Throughout this process the PSC will conduct an independent review, determining whether there is a need for this project as well as holding public and technical hearings that are open to the public. With help from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the PSC will also create an Environmental Impact Statement in order to assess the impact of the proposed project on the environment. The PSC will also consult the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to analyze how the project might impact agricultural lands.
Ultimately, the PSC is responsible for selecting the official route. If approved, ATC will be given permission to move forward with the project by contacting affected landowners and beginning construction. This is subject to an order issued by the PSC which specifies the terms and conditions that must be met prior to construction. In April 2014, the PSC issued a letter of completeness for the project application, with a year-long approval process for the project to follow.
Ownership of the line has faced disputes that were later resolved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In July 2012, FERC granted a complaint that American Transmission Company must share ownership of the line equally with Xcel. ATC requested that FERC reviews the order, but the complaint was denied.
In early 2014, a bill was proposed in Wisconsin that would change the way that the Department of Natural Resources conducts its permitting process. The legislation would require the department to approve or deny a permit within 30 days of filing.
American Transmission Company (ATC)
Several environmental and community groups are opposed to the La Crosse to Madison Transmission Line. About 80 local units of government have signed resolutions requesting that the state Public Service Commission conduct an independent assessment of alternatives to proceeding with this project. The groups express concern regarding the economic, health, and environmental effects of the project. They argue that there is no need for expanded grid capacity, and therefore the line doesn’t accurately address Wisconsin’s present or future power demand. Several citizens affected by each potential route are demanding that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission work with ATC to develop alternatives, which may include efficiency programs and distributed generation.
Many suspect that the region will not benefit from the project, even though they will still be charged for the lines. While it's true that the region's consumers will pay for a portion of the lines, the vast majority of project costs will be paid on a cost-share basis by ratepayers throughout the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) region. This region encompasses parts of 11 states, as well as parts of Canada. Because this project will improve reliability throughout the entire Upper Midwest (including Wisconsin), cost-sharing is an effective way to fund these projects that can improve reliability for the region.
As ATC and Xcel Energy narrow the study corridor and settle on specific routes, opposition grows. Some of the opposition wants ATC agrees to use a route following an existing interstate corridor, opposed to forging a new path. Fewer individuals would be personally affected by the project as it runs along public land, opposed to private.
Other opponents about the fact that the line will connect to the CapX2020 project, which will carry power through Minnesota to La Crosse. This primarily raises questions of the type of energy that the line will carry. They suggest that while ATC states the line will primarily support wind power, there is a danger that it will instead connect and support power from coal plants throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Both those in support and those opposed to the project have made it a point to provide feedback, official statements, and generally make their opinions known. Three rounds of public meetings provided the public opportunity to weigh in. Official comments submitted to both companies, as well as governmental agencies, have ensured that each perspective is recorded. Environmental statements and surveys moved ATC and Xcel Energy to consider a wide array of consequences as the project takes shape.
However, a growing number of state residents are directing their frustration not at ATC, but at the state Public Service Commission. Many have complained that the Wisconsin PSC has not been receptive to their concerns and has not done enough to reach out to concerned citizens. About 2,000 residents and 90 municipalities have signed on to a resolution asking for alternatives to be considered by the PSC, and some have commissioned independent cost-benefit analysis of the line.
S.O.U.L. (save our unique lands) of the Kickapoo is a grassroots organization voicing strong concerns regarding the line’s future impact on the Kickapoo Valley Nature Reserve and local residents. Their concern stems from the size of the poles used to construct this project, arguing that current plans will damage viewsheds and harm wildlife. While this group remains active, their concerns have been mitigated by ATC's decision to avoid the Kickapoo Valley. In 2013, the group petitioned regulators for a full examination of the need for the transmission line.
In late October 2013, several Wisconsin business and labor groups voiced support for the project, noting that congestion of the electrical system was a serious problem for businesses in Wisconsin. Named the Coalition Organized for Reliable Energy (CORE), they support the project for the benefits it could have for transmission and job creation, although they did not take a position on the potential routes for the project.
Some residents of Holland wish to influence the project while it is still in the planning stages, wondering if the project can be added to the same structures that will be used for the CapX2020 project, or if the lines could be buried under a highway junction instead of running over the area. The town board of Holland held a Q&A with ATC to gather more information about the transmission line. A group of Holland residents gathered in late October 2013 to voice opposition, and to propose other routes for the project. The project could affect recent development areas in Onalaska, WI; with the township petitioning the developers to shift the project to an alternative route. In 2014, about 600 Holland residents joined in signing a petition opposing the current route for the project. Several citizens vying for a seat on the Holland Town Board have mentioned this project as a primary issue, and the town board voted unanimously to hire an attorney to represent the town in legal proceedings concerning the project.
In November 2013, it was revealed during annual budgeting processes that Xcel Energy will pay nearly $9.3 million to areas impacted by the line. $8.9 million of the fee is earmarked to be split between three counties and about 14 municipalities, and is meant to be used for environmental projects. This is in addition to the over $500,000 that Xcel will be required to pay each year to municipalities. Many county officials noted that they were surprised by the amount, and that the amount exceeds what many communities put towards conservation projects currently. For communities like Holland, the one-time environmental impact payment they receive from the developers will be aimed at environmental programs, such as preserving green space or building renewable energy projects. The town board of Holland is still consulting with legal services to see what they can do about parts of the project they are opposed to. Town Board members voiced concerns in 2014 about information they were presented by the developer of the project, citing inconsistencies and a lack of answers to important questions surrounding the project.
Members of the Holmen School Board wish to join in with other municipalities that oppose the line. They cite common concerns surrounding the project--such as the projects proximity to school district facilities--and wish to discuss steps to address these concerns or intervene in the project.
SOUL of Kickapoo and the Citizens Energy Task Force are asking regulators to reopen the case for the line, citing that there is further study required concerning the need for the line--they claim that need for electricity is down, and that the line will not be used in the right way. SOUL will also hold informational meetings around the line, hoping to prepare community members to participate in the regulatory process--preparing them to write and submit their own comments directly to the Public Service Commission--or gather more information from landowners and community members relating to the project. The PSC denied this request in mid-February 2014. Two Wisconsin state senators sent a letter to the PSC in May 2014, asking them to keep the regulatory process as open as possible and that they notify the public more effectively.
The final approval process for the line began in April 2014 when the the PSC issued the letter of completeness. Meetings for the line are slated for the first weeks in June, allowing the public to include their input on the proposed routes before the PSC makes the final decision on the line. At one of these meetings, some residents of Holland questioned the necessity of the project at the Holland area, and also requested that the line be buried. Several communities also noted that they were concerned about the potential loss of property value. Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare object to the southern route option for the project, as they claim that the southern option could possibly hurt development of future healthcare services they may plan for the area.
In June 2014, 11 Wisconsin legislators sent a letter to the PSC, asking them to consider potential alternatives to additional transmission and to explore the costs of this new transmission.
Any resident wishing to weigh in can do so by entering feedback in the Public Comments section of the PSC case docket. The docket number for this project is 137-CE-160. Additional opportunities are made available to those who request to be added to the PSC mailing list. This will allow interested residents to receive periodic updates regarding the status of this project. Residents are also invited to attend PSC scoping meetings, public hearings, and technical hearings. The developers have held two rounds of open houses to date, using information gathered from these meetings to narrow down the preferred route.
Finally, those interested in providing feedback during the environmental assessment portion of this project can do so by submitting comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and commenting on the draft Environmental Impact Statement. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began accepting comments on potential wetland impacts from the project in February 2016.
In Spring 2017 a judge's decision halted work on a portion of the line so that the siting of the line along a highway corridor with another line running on the other side of the highway could be reviewed. WI PSC attorneys filed an appeal to the order in May 2017, arguing that they had submitted documentation that provides evidence for the siting decision and that the judge's original ruling overstepped his authority. The judge reversed his decision halting construction, but still ordered the commission reconsider the particular siting decision.
Clean Energy Potential:
ATC affirmed their commitment to support renewable energy and address the renewable electricity requirements of Midwestern states. The line will provide increased access to renewable resources, though an exact percentage of capacity has not yet been determined. ATC says that the line will open up access to wind energy in Wisconsin. This will be done by connecting La Crosse-Madison to the larger CapX2020 project near Holmen. That project is designed to transport wind energy from the Dakotas to the east.
The La Crosse-Madison project is also located in an identified “renewable energy corridor”, according to the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative, and as a place where additional transmission is needed.
According to ATC, the line also provides renewable investment benefits, which quantify the capital cost savings of tapping high capacity wind factor with new transmission. Benefits from the La Crosse-Madison project could range from $50 million up to $340 million.
The filing from the PSC can be viewed here.
Badger Coulee line charges ahead as court case lingers October 13, 2017
Holland appeals court ruling on Badger-Coulee line June 3, 2017
Foundation work continues along power line corridor through Dells November 25, 2016
A question of need: Court to hear challenge to high-voltage line October 10, 2016
Feds trim guaranteed profits for transmission projects October 9, 2016
Municipalities to get $1.8M for power line May 13, 2016
Holland challenge to Badger-Coulee line ruling moves forward February 26, 2016
Public Input Sought On Badger Coulee Line February 22, 2016
Corps of Engineers considering wetland permit for power line February 16, 2016
Regulators reject new hearing on high-voltage line June 10, 2015
PSC won't review Badger-Coulee ruling June 7, 2015
Acciona: MISO Blocking Access to PJM June 1, 2015
Badger Coulee line gets OK May 1, 2015
Badger-Coulee OK'd April 29, 2015
Badger Coulee transmission line gets final OK April 23, 2015
Badger Coulee's north route approved by PSC April 1, 2015
PSC set to approve Badger Coulee transmission line March 31, 2015
Badger Coulee transmission line wins PSC approval March 27, 2015
Utilities favor northern route for transmission line February 12, 2015
Environmentalists split over Badger-Coulee power line December 9, 2014
PSC chairman may attend public hearings after all December 4, 2014
Give opinions on Badger Coulee December 3, 2014
PSC schedules public hearings on proposed Badger Coulee line December 1, 2014
Hearings set for Badger-Coulee project November 26, 2014
Engineers refute need for Badger Coulee transmission line November 19, 2014
Experts, advocates make competing claims on high-voltage transmission November 17, 2014
Hearings set on high-voltage transmission project November 2, 2014
Public hearings announced on high-voltage transmission project October 31, 2014
Mayo Clinic voices opinion about Badger Coulee Line October 7, 2014
Large response to proposed Badger Coulee Line from residents October 3, 2014
Power line comment deadline looms September 25, 2014
Badger Coulee comment period ends Oct. 3 September 24, 2014
Power Line project still taking comments September 23, 2014
Onalaska Committee Mulls Over Badger Coulee Line, Urban Agriculture September 16, 2014
Onalaska to host meeting on power line project September 4, 2014
Regulators release draft environmental review of Badger Coulee September 3, 2014
Draft of EIS for Badger Coulee line released August 27, 2014
Locals asked to pay 10-15 percent of $580 million power line August 21, 2014
Regulators release draft environmental review of Badger Coulee August 20, 2014
Power line project could cost up to $580 million August 19, 2014
Less Enthusiasm over controversial proposal July 8, 2014
Legislators seek alternative to high-voltage lines July 2, 2014
Lawmakers seek power line alternatives June 26, 2014
State checking impact of power line project June 16, 2014
Power line project in scoping stage June 13, 2014
Holmen students weigh in on Badger-Coulee June 08, 2014
Scoping session focuses on ATC line June 04, 2014
Badger Coulee Power Line meetings continue June 03, 2014
Hearing June 10 in Tomah for powerlinepowerline May 25, 2014
PSC to hold meetings on Badger-Coulee power line May 16, 2014
PSC OKs review of Badger-Coulee application May 12, 2014
High-voltage application heads to PSC May 8, 2014
Input session on Badger-Coulee power line set March 8, 2014
Badger-Coulee landowner help session set February 28, 2014
Holland board meets with lawyer on power lines February 20, 2014
Holmen schools look to join Badger-Coulee fight February 13, 2014
Transmission line opponents won't give up despite setback February 11, 2014
Deadline for PSC to act on CapX2020 petition is Saturday February 5, 2014
Holland hires lawyer for power line fight January 30, 2014
Three seek seat on Holland Town Board January 23, 2014
Wisconsin must embrace alternative energy sources January 21, 2014
Landowners mobilize against power line January 17, 2014
Holland plans hearing on CapX2020 payments January 16, 2014
Ontario help session on ATC line set for Saturday January 15, 2014
Holland petition opposes power line January 12, 2014
SOUL, landowners to offer help sessions on Badger-Coulee proposal January 12, 2014
Groups ask PSC to reopen decision January 10, 2014
CAPX2020 opponents say electricity demand down January 10, 2014
Citizen groups ask PSC to reopen CapX2020 January 10, 2014
SOUL plans help sessions regarding Badger Coulee line January 9, 2014
Onalaska, Holmen officials optimistic about 2014 January 2, 2014
County to sell land to West Salem schools December 20, 2013
Capitol Notes: Agriview November 27, 2013
Proposed high-voltage line project hits snag November 26, 2013
Municipalities to get windfall from CapX2020 November 15, 2013
Residents mobilizing against power line project November 14, 2013
Badger Coulee opponents ask for complete examination November 13, 2013
State's economy gets boost from power projects November 12, 2013
Residents mobilize against Badger Coulee transmission project October 31, 2013
Businesses, labor groups get behind Badger Coulee project October 30, 2013
Officials plead for ATC second look October 30, 2013
Wisconsin power line to connect with CapX2020 October 24, 2013
Application filed for high-voltage line between Holmen and Madison October 23, 2013
Line would bring power from La Crosse to Madison October 23, 2013
Power line route still up in the air September 5, 2013
Holland town board has Q & A with ATC about power line August 29, 2013
Power lines sparks uproar in Holland August 21, 2013
Small crowds for Brooks session June 05, 2013
Badger Coulee route ruffles feathers in Cashton October 31, 2012
Company, opponents present sides in power line debate October 31, 2012
Keep power line project out of Dells October 13, 2012
Residents, Sen. Schultz want answers from PSC on power policy October 6, 2012
Power line cost will be steep September 18, 2012
Outsider: Failing to consider need, options is Badger-Coulee's dilemma September 12, 2012
Crime and Courts: Power line opponents take PSC to court August 26, 2012
Congressional Candidate Dennis Hall Attacks Badger Coulee August 2, 2012
ATC considering appeal of Badger Coulee decision July 30, 2012
Feds say ATC must share line with Xcel July 26, 2012
Dispute Over Ownership of New Energy Line July 25, 2012
Lyndon Station residents urged to ‘decline the line’ July 25, 2012
Tabled resolution on Badger Coulee Transmission Line July 23, 2012
County mulls power-line route July 18, 2012
Groups appealing CapX2020 decision June 19, 2012
Group backs I-90/94 routes June 18, 2012
Amish sign petition in opposition to power line project June 15, 2012
Onalaska opposes transmission project May 24, 2012
New Lisbon opposes ATC routes May 23, 2012
Village leader against power line May 21, 2012
CapX2020 route OK’d by regulators May 11, 2012
Power line fight: the end, or the beginning? May 11, 2012
ATC collects comments on line routes April 27, 2012
Power move: ATC open house draws a crowd April 27, 2012
Public weighs in on power line project April 27, 2012
ATC presents possible routes for power line April 25, 2012
Opponents optimistic about stopping CapX2020 project April 20, 2012
Opinions divided on Badger Coulee power line April 17, 2012
Power line could cross river April 6, 2012
Power shift: ATC leaves area out of transmission line plans March 31, 2012
ATC eliminates Vernon County options for power line route March 28, 2012
ATC sets open houses for Badger Coulee preliminary routes March 27, 2012
Common Council voices opposition to ATC plan January 11, 2012
Wisconsin-Minnesota power project could become clearer in 2012 January 3, 2012
County Board committee wants ATC to provide more data December 8, 2011
Dellona questions need for ATC line December 2, 2011
Town of Winfield opposes ATC"s proposed line route November 5, 2011
Proposed transmission lines raising questions across the state October 13, 2011
Vernon County Board seeks more information on Badger-Coulee line August 24, 2011
ATC: Badger-Coulee line has economic benefits August 10, 2011
City council opposes power line August 10, 2011
ATC's Badger-Coulee line is unnecessary August 2, 2011
Public input pays off in power plan August 1, 2011
City delays vote on power line July 27, 2011
ATC's plan could affect airport July 7, 2011
250 attend open house July 2, 2011
Power line foes told to speak now, and offer reasons June 26, 2011
Need for proposed transmission line is not clear June 26, 2011
Residents weigh in on ATC plans June 24, 2011
City will listen to ATC's Pitch June 23, 2011
Town opposes running power line over bluffs June 15, 2011
ATC holds 8 meetings on Badger Coulee Line June 2, 2011
Meeting set May 7 on ATC Transmission Line April 30, 2011
Officials want new power line to follow I-90-94 April 26, 2011
Details emerging slowly for ATC power line project March 19, 2011
ATC venture troubles habitat advocates March 18, 2011
Badger-Coulee Transmission Line Meetings March 17, 2011
We all know that clean energy transmission is vitally important to our energy future. It brings economic opportunity to rural areas, enables wind development and improves the reliability of your grid. But to build it properly - to create projects that work best for you and your community - requires your knowledge and participation. That's why we've created this database.
Is there a way we can improve? Any changes that would make this a more effective tool? Alternatively, do you have more questions about this line? Would you like to receive email updates? Send an email to email@example.com and let us know!