By Tracy Will
The three members of the state Public Service Commission unanimously agreed today to approve a new American Transmission Co. power line in Dane County.
“Building for the future makes sense,” said PSC Chair Eric Callisto in discussing the commission’s decision to permit ATC to build the 345kv line.
The approved route will run above ground along Madison’s Beltline, a route Callisto said he backed because it affects the least environmentally sensitive land, had fewer stream crossings than rural routes, and had the least impact on agricultural lands of the four proposed routes.
Callisto recommended moving the line north of the Beltline where it conflicts with apartment projects and south of upper Mud Lake on the Yahara River south of the Beltline.
“I find the Rockdale-Beltline line as modified is consistent with state statutes,” Callisto said.
Commissioner Mark Meyer encouraged ATC to work with UW Arboretum officials and others to reduce environmental impact on that area.
Meyer considered existing state law to guide his decision to approve the plan for overhead lines.
“I thought this was a clear message from the Legislature. It made the Rockdale Beltline route the best of the alternatives,” Meyer said. “I am not prepared today to support undergrounding on this project. Ultimately it is the ratepayers who bear the cost of this project,” and the overhead approach is less expensive.
Commissioner Lauren Azar said, “the existing system is inadequate,” as she commented on the need for increased transmission capacity in Dane County.
“I have concluded that the ATC predictions are reasonable for load growth,” she said. “Even at existing loads we may see voltage collapse by 2015.”