MADISON, Wis. - The public has a chance to provide its input about a controversial power transmission line project this week.
The $500 million Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line would run more than 100 miles across southwestern Wisconsin, adding towers from Dubuque County, Iowa, to Middleton on one of a few potential routes.
A group of people, including farmers, property owners and conservationists are calling on the Public Service Commission to deny the project’s application.
They met before one of two public hearings at the PSC building in Madison Wednesday to voice their concerns.
"Once it's built, there's no going back,” said Dave Clutter, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. "It's a project that's not needed. We've had flat energy demand for nearly 10 years now."
The project, a joint effort from the American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest LL and Dairlyland Power Cooperative would transfer energy from Iowa to Wisconsin.
"This line is not proposed and justified on energy needs, per se. Energy needs are generally flat or growing small,” said Anne Spaltholz, ATC corporate communications director. “The line is justified on moving clean, renewable energy into the region."
Spaltholz said the line would also bring electric system reliability and potential net economic benefits between $23.5 million and $350 million to Wisconsin customers over its lifetime.
"It provides some exceptional benefits,” she said. “If people care about renewable energy, this is the way to help move it in to this area."
Opponents like Clutter, however, want to draw the line, pushing for alternatives like solar and wind-power generated here in Wisconsin.
"These are technologies we're not implementing in Wisconsin,” he said. “If we're going to have 100 percent renewable energy, which is Gov. (Tony) Evers' goal, we need to start implementing these technologies today rather than relying on our energy coming from a mix of carbon and non-carbon fuels from out west.”
"You have to understand how the electric system works. It doesn't start and stop at state lines,” Spaltholz said. “It operates on a regional system. Right now there is development and activity of green renewable development in neighboring lines, so what this line does is help more that energy into Wisconsin so we can benefit from the development of that power."
Opponents question if the line is worth it, especially believing the line would harm things like property values, conservation efforts and tourism.
“The fact of the matter is that in southwest Wisconsin, a big part of our economy is the tourism economy, so if we're going to protect our tourism economy we need to protect the natural beauty and diversity of this area,” Clutter said. "We really want the commission to pause, look at alternative energy solutions and make a good decision for the state of Wisconsin.”
The PSC will take into account public input – favorable and unfavorable – something Spaltholz said ATC is interested in as well.
"What we want to understand is what are the potential impacts. People here know better than anybody,” Spaltholz said. "By listening to what people have to say, that can only improve and help mitigate any impacts,” she said.
Two final public hearings will be held in Dodgeville Thursday at Dodger Bowl Lanes at 2 and 6 p.m. Written comments can be submitted online through Friday, as well.