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Door County transmission line waits for one man

Paul Snyder
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One Door County landowner’s level of satisfaction stands between success and rejection of a $24.7 million transmission line project.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Thursday approved Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co. LLC’s proposed 138-kilovolt, 8-mile transmission line, which will be built next to an existing transmission line in Door County.

But the commission’s approval is conditional. ATC, according to the commission, must work with landowner Kevin Devault of Sturgeon Bay to minimize the transmission line’s visibility from his home.

Devault, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, was one of only two people to submit public comments on ATC’s proposal to the commission. He was the only person to raise concerns about it.

According to a letter (PDF) attributed to Devault and sent to the PSC in April, ATC’s proposed route for the project would ruin a tree buffer Devault planted on his property to limit the view of the existing transmission line.

According to the letter, the new line would run between the buffer and his house.

But Devault cannot plant another buffer closer to his house because his septic system is in the way, according to the letter.

ATC spokeswoman Jackie Olson said the company is offering Devault options. Construction of the line will not begin until next summer, she said, so there is time to negotiate.

“We have a pretty good track record of working with landowners in these situations,” she said.

Lauren Azar, a PSC commissioner, on Thursday called ATC’s proposal the “least contested transmission line” she ever voted on. And Devault’s concern, she said, deserves a response from ATC.

“This is an example of a citizen bearing an additional burden for the good of all of us,” Azar said.

It’s too soon to say what ATC will do for Devault, Olson said. The solution, she said, could be as simple as landscaping or planting trees, assuming ATC can fit them in around the septic system.

Whatever solution ATC and Devault agree to, it should be in writing on the project’s written order expected later this month, said Mark Meyer, a PSC commissioner.

ATC offered five alternatives for diverting the line around Devault’s property, but each alternative raised the project cost by more than $100,000. PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said those costs were too high for him to consider recommending a different route.

The company will do its best to reach an agreement with Devault, Olson said.

“We handle these situations on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “I’d say it’s more the exception than the norm, but we have a dedicated staff working on this.”

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