Utility seeks approval for Madison area power lines: Some residents don't see need, but group says area is growing

MADISON, WISCONSIN - American Transmission Co. asked state regulators to approve the second in a series of new power lines designed to help keep up with growth in the booming Madison area.

The Pewaukee-based transmission utility filed documents with the Public Service Commission detailing a 138,000-volt transmission line and substation in the cities of Fitchburg and Verona and the Town of Verona. The power line is projected to cost from $18.8 million to $19.6 million, depending on which route is selected, according to ATC. The company said Wisconsin Power & Light Co. projects that electric demand in the Madison suburbs of Oregon and Verona has grown by 5% to 7% a year over the past five years.

"That's one of the fastest expanding suburbs of the Madison metro area," said Mark Williamson, vice president of major projects at ATC. The utility had initially looked at building a line farther south, through the Town of Montrose, but that plan required taking more land from property owners and was rejected, Williamson said. The power line project joins another eight-mile project proposed for the Waunakee area that is pending before state regulators.

A separate project on the east side of Madison, known as Femrite-Sprecher, was constructed over the past month and is scheduled to start moving electricity next year. All the projects proposed for Dane County have generated an outpouring of opposition from residents concerned that ATC's solution isn't the best one for the Madison area.

The groups, which have united under the name Citizens for Responsible Energy, propose greater use of energy efficiency, interruption of business customers on hot summer days and other measures to delay or prevent construction of new power lines. Critics of new power lines say the slowing housing market, the passage of a law encouraging more spending on energy conservation and renewable energy and other factors may make the lines less urgently needed than when they were first conceived several years ago.

ATC counters that the projects are needed after years of not building electric transmission infrastructure. The most costly and controversial project is a 345,000-volt line that would connect eastern and western sections of Dane County. The cost of that project, which ATC wants built by 2011, has been estimated at $131 million to $163 million. ATC unveiled three alternative routes for the 345,000- volt line last summer, one along the Madison Beltline highway, one through several Madison suburbs and one through rural Dane County.

The company is expected to announce, as soon as February or as late as April, that it has winnowed its choice for that power line to two alternatives. ATC is a utility that owns the major transmission lines in eastern Wisconsin and operates the power line system in eastern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

ATC wants approval of the six-mile Verona-Fitchburg project by July 1 so that it can begin construction in October. The project would be completed in 2009.


in Year