Proposal would send high-voltage lines through Buffalo, Trempealeau counties

From the Winona Daily News, January 6, 2011:

An application filed Wednesday proposes at least 40 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines that would run through Buffalo and Trempealeau counties, including potential routes through Cochrane, Galesville and Arcadia.

A permit application filed by CapX2020 shows three route options for 345-kilovolt lines that would run from Alma to La Crosse, Wis.

A 43-mile route that follows Highway 35 through Cochrane before routing east of the highway before Fountain City, running north of Trempealeau and down to Onalaska.

A 48-mile route that follows Highway 35 through Cochrane before routing east of the highway before Fountain City, then heading to Galesville before running to Onalaska.

A 55-mile route that runs south of Waumandee to near Arcadia, then runs south until it veers east into Galesville before heading to Onalaska.

All three routes would then hook into a substation that would be built in the town of Onalaska, the application states. The documents filed with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin relate to the Wisconsin portion of a proposed 120- to 145-mile line that would stretch from Hampton, Minn., to La Crosse.

Officials with CapX2020, an energy-company consortium, say the $450 million project will ensure the areas along the line have access to reliable, affordable electricity.

But portions of the plans, which could possibly affect more than 1,000 landowners in the two states, have received opposition on both sides of the river. Two groups have filed several court motions in objection to proposed CapX2020 routes in Minnesota, but have been unsuccessful so far. And both the Mississippi River Parkway Commission and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation have submitted letters objecting to any new voltage lines along Hwy. 35, which is part of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

“Simply stated, the GRRNSB is viewed as a destination unto itself, and it makes no sense to have any measurable gap in the route,” a letter from WisDOT states. “Wisconsin, along with other states and members of this multi-state scenic byway, promote the entire route to tourists.”

A final route for the Wisconsin portion of the line will not be determined for at least a year, documents state. Under that timeline, right-of-way acquisition would start in July 2012, construction in 2013 and the lines would be put in service in December 2015, according to the application.

CapX2020’s submission Wednesday of the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application simpy starts the process, company officials said. If the application is deemed complete, the public review process will begin, and an environmental review and impact statement will also be completed.

A similar environmental impact statement for the Minnesota portion of the project is expected to be complete this month, officials have said.