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Two possible routes for Badger Coulee line

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ATC Badger-Coulee Transmission routes

Tracking the path of the Interstate, from Black River Falls to Madison, is the prime pathway for the planned high-voltage Badger-Coulee transmission line.

American Transmission Co. and Xcel Energy have narrowed the alternatives to two possible routes for the 150- to 170-mile, 345-kilovolt line and has scheduled a series of public meetings over the next several weeks to get public response.

  • The “preferred” route follows I-94 from northern Dane County to Black River Falls, west to Blair and then south to Holmen, according to maps posted on ATC’s website and sent to residents in areas potentially affected.
  • The “alternate” route runs north near the Interstate to Portage, then northwest along Hwy. 16. At Lyndon Station, it turns west, through Elroy to Cashton, then north to Rockland and west along I-90 to Onalaska and then Holmen.

Out of the running are potential routes in Monroe County through Norwalk to Sparta, and in Trempeauleau and Jackson counties from Ettrick to Warrens or a parallel line, a few miles north. In earlier maps, the Kickapoo Valley and the Baraboo Bluffs, some of the state’s most scenic areas, were eliminated from consideration.

“We started with dozens of route options, then we went down to fewer, and now we’re at two,” ATC spokeswoman Anne Spaltholz said Friday.

She said three rounds of public meetings, written comments and environmental reports helped pare the paths. She said ATC got “quite a bit” of public response calling for the high-voltage line to “follow the Interstate as much as possible.”

The Interstate route runs farther north, so it is longer and more expensive than the alternate route. The estimated cost: about $500 million.

“One of the benefits of the northern route is that more than 90 percent of the 170-mile route uses existing utility and state and federal highway corridors, versus about 60 percent on the southern route,” Spaltholz said. The southern route would cost about $475 million but may affect property owners more, she said.

Spaltholz said it is too soon to tell what the potential price would be for utility ratepayers. But MISO, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, which supervises power flow across the region, has said the cost will be spread throughout the region, which includes 11 states and part of Canada. “That’s because the line provides not only local reliability benefits but also supports the transmission grid in the upper Midwest region,” Spaltholz said.

The Badger Coulee line would connect at Holmen with CapX2020, a 700-mile series of transmission lines — already approved — that will start in the Dakotas. At its south end, it would tie in with the high-voltage line being built across Dane County.

Opponents have said the Badger Coulee line is not needed and is a waste of money.

Five open houses are scheduled to get comments on the latest route designations, including one in Waunakee on Oct. 30, at the Waunakee Village Center, from 1 to 7 p.m.

ATC and Xcel Energy plan to submit two routes to the state Public Service Commission in early 2013. If approved, the transmission line could be in operation in late 2017.

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