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Town seeks distance from power lines

By Paul Snyder

The people who live in Pleasant Springs have no choice but to trust that an estimated $220 million transmission line will not get too close to a subdivision.

“I don’t know if we have any more recourse, unfortunately,” said Mary Haley, a town supervisor. “We feel we have a valid concern, and I hope they work with us.”

Haley said the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin earlier this month chose not to reconsider Waukesha-based American Transmission Co. LLC’s proposal for a 345-kilovolt line between Rockdale and west Middleton near Madison.

The town asked for the reconsideration because ATC plans to place the line on the north side of Interstate 90, which is close to a 29-home subdivision. The town wanted the PSC to require ATC place the line on the south side of the highway for about 600 feet to avoid the subdivision.

The PSC approved the line earlier this summer, and Pleasant Springs officials did not contest the decision until September. The PSC, Haley said, ruled against reopening the case because it would be too expensive to move the line.

ATC spokeswoman Sarah Justus said the additional structures and line length needed to cross the interstate twice likely would have added about $1 million to the project.

PSC representatives were unavailable to comment on the project or decision.

The alternative to moving the line across the highway, Haley said, is to place two poles that support the lines as far apart from each other as possible so they are not too close to the subdivision.

Justus said ATC is willing to work on that idea with the town. Although support poles are usually placed 800 to 900 feet apart, she said, that distance could be expanded by up to 150 feet near the subdivision.

“Any additional costs or impacts will be part of what we have to look at in finishing the plans,” Justus said. “We’re not yet to a point where all the decisions are made.”

ATC does not have to adjust the pole placement. The lines would be about 160 feet from the nearest property line, and, according to PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith, poles for power lines within a Wisconsin Department of Transportation right of way must be at least 150 feet from property lines.

“The design standards we have,” Justus said, “say we’re not too close even at the present design.”

There is no easy formula that will determine if increasing the distance between poles would be too expensive, she said. ATC will consider the town’s request while working on the project design, which should be nearly complete by fall, Justus said.

Haley said ATC has contacted the town and, she said, wants the company to be more accommodating than the PSC.

“We’ve got residents here very involved in trying to keep their homes in the best condition, and this will have an effect on property values,” Haley said. “I was hoping the PSC would be more receptive to our concerns, but they were more interested in state land than property owners.”

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