by Deb Severson, Citizens Energy Task Force
The Center for Biodiversity, a national organization dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild lands, had learned of regional transmission expansion impacting Wisconsin after the deadline to intervene. The Center used the public comment opportunity to share concerns regarding deficiencies in the Public Service Commission’s Environmental Impact Statement.
The project cannot meet requirements under Wisconsin laws requiring PSC-approved facilities not have undue adverse impact on environmental values including ecological balance, public health and welfare, historic sites, geological formations, aesthetics of land and water, and recreational use, staff attorney April Rose Sommer said in the Center’s comment.
Construction and operation of the Badger Coulee line would result in the death of protected bird species, clear-cutting thousands of acres of unique and fragile habitat including wetlands and forests, impact hundreds of waterway, and have ongoing adverse impacts on wildlife and wildlands and the people who enjoy them, she said.
The PSC’s Environmental Impact Statement on the Badger Coulee fails to evaluate the effects of the proposed project and alternatives as required by Wisconsin law, Sommer wrote, contending either the PSC, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or applicant had time to conduct the required studies. Failure to accurately describe the project or affected environment violates the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) and deprives the public of the right to make meaningful comment on the project, she said.
The proposal will have a “tragic affect on Wisconsin`s birds,” especially its eagles and cranes, Sommer predicted. Singling out “the plan to sandwich the Holland Sand Prairie State Natural Area, the largest remaining grassland bird habitat in this region, between two transmission lines; to construct a crane and waterfowl death trap in between the foraging and rousting grounds of Leopold-Pine Island IBA; and to run the line through the Kickapoo-Wildcat IBA, home to 25 percent of Wisconsin`s over-wintering golden eagle population,” she said “these will have a devastating and permanent impact on the state`s birds and runs afoul of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald Eagle Protection Act.”
Though noting that the project applicants belong to the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC), Sommer said they have “demonstrated an abject disregard for avian protection,” concluding “the project should not be approved based on the certainty of high level of bird death by collision and electrocutions.”
The EIS also doesn’t tell the total acres that will be clear-cut, in violation of WEPA, or describe herbicide application in right-of-ways, the center’s comment says.
“It is unclear,” Sommer said, “why the PSC has expended significant resources on processing an application for a project that, by its own terms, is impossible as described.”