Holmen gives thumbs down to power line project

2012-02-16T14:35:00Z Holmen gives thumbs down to power line projectBy JEAN BURGESS | Special correspondent La Crosse Tribune
February 16, 2012 2:35 pm  • 

The village of Holmen, one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Wisconsin, is trying to convince the Wisconsin Public Service Commission that it’s not too late to do the right thing and keep high voltage transmission lines out of Holmen.

With perfectly clear words such as “irresponsible,” “unethical” and “completely unacceptable,” the Holmen Village Board last week approved a three-page resolution strongly opposing building any 345kv transmission lines around the village or its schools.

Holmen Administrator Scott Heinig said the resolution is “an aggressive, realistic view of what this would do our community.”

Heinig said the day after the board passed the resolution at its February meeting, a village representative shared those concerns with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.

“I think Rep. Kind had an eye-opening discussion and probably heard information he hadn’t known before,” Heinig said.

Village board member Ryan Olson said he believes running the line through Holmen would destroy the area’s future vitality.

“We are opposed to it going right through our municipality and through our TIF district,” Olson said.  He said that if the power lines run through the region’s fastest growing area, “the growth they say they want the line to serve will not be there!”

Olson predicts the proposed route through Holmen would destroy the area’s expected population and commercial growth.

“And it won’t be just Holmen,” said Heinig. “Destroying the primary growth corridor will impact all of southwestern Wisconsin.”

The Holmen area and the Highway 53 corridor are regarded as La Crosse County’s prime development region for new residential areas, economic expansion and new job creation opportunities, anticipating 5,000 new homes and businesses over the next 20 years.

But village board members assert that allowing the 345kv transmission lines across Holmen will disrupt projects now under way and undermine those planned for the future.

Olson said he doesn’t believe Xcel Energy, the power company proposing the power line route, supervised the planning stage closely enough to realize the negative effect it would have on Holmen and northern La Crosse County.

“But now it seems as if they’ve come too far and they’re not willing to back up,” Olson said.

Charging that Xcel Energy did not thoroughly investigate the impact such a project would have on this area, Holmen’s resolution points out the power company submitted its application without even disclosing its intention to route the lines through the Holmen area.

The resolution also calls on the PSC to ensure that the proposed regional CapX2020 high-voltage power line be “properly located” to avoid Holmen and its school district land, as well.

Holmen proposes that transmission line and a new substation be located north of La Crosse County, routing high-voltage lines through less populated areas, then running only lower-level lines to serve the Holmen area.

Holmen’s resolution contends that keeping the planned 345kv lines and substation north of La Crosse County would put the proposed power lines in a better position anyway to move electricity to the east and to other areas outside Wisconsin that will need power in the future. It would “more appropriately allow for future regional expansion of CapX2020 to the east,” as intended by the American Transmission Company’s Badger Coulee Transmission line project, the resolution states.

With its suggested solution of keeping lines north of La Crosse County, the  village aims to avoid “devastating human impact,” yet still allow for lower-level power line opportunities to serve high-growth, urban areas such as Holmen and northern La Crosse County.

Claiming that the power infrastructure is being built not just to meet regional needs, but is ultimately aimed at meeting statewide and “potentially international” power needs,  the resolution calls on the PSC to require all planning — regional, state and national — to be done simultaneously.

“There has been no regional planning,” Heinig said. “It’s as if they analyzed this project 100 miles at a time” instead of looking at the project as a whole, or analyzing how it will link up from state to state.   

Holmen is calling on the state’s representatives, legislators, governor, and federal elected officials to defend northern La Crosse County against devastating impacts to local communities, their economies, schools and planned residential and business areas.

The village objections include the following:

  • If lines are run near Holmen School District properties, it would damage property values of 500 existing homes. If erected over the proposed path, those lines would run adjacent or even right over Prairie View Elementary School, Holmen High School and the land proposed for a new middle school, affecting several thousand students daily.
  • It will damage economic development and opportunities for new jobs in an area that is the last major developable freeway interchange in La Crosse County and perhaps one of the last  developable freeway interchanges in all of southwestern Wisconsin.
  • If built where proposed through Holmen, the power line would be built directly over a $4 million 60-unit memory care center in the TIF district. There are plans for a second phase that would add another 60 units by 2013.
  • It would damage potential investment by Gundersen Lutheran, which owns a 20-acre parcel at the Highway 53/35 interchange that would be under or near the power line. Damaging that investment would discourage job creation and damage the value of Holmen’s TIF district, and waste the village’s financial investment.
  • It would jeopardize utility investments already in place to serve four large agricultural areas, anticipated to be developed within 10 to 20 years.
    “This placement of power lines threatens millions of dollars of investments in Holmen,” Heinig said.  “And it would significantly change the intended development plan for Holmen and all of northern La Crosse County.”
    Village President Nancy Proctor pointed out that the new lines are not necessary to meet Holmen’s power needs. She said she questioned Riverland Energy as to whether it could meet the needs of Holmen’s new TIF district without the proposed power line.
    “The manager said we’d be just fine without this new (power) line,” Proctor said.
    The next two opportunities to comment of the 345kv transmission line plan will be next month. Hearings are Tuesday, March 13, from 1 to 6 p.m., at the American Legion in Alma and Wednesday, March 14, from 1 to 6 p.m., at the Centerville Community Center.
    Another option for giving input to the PSC is to fill out an online form.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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