The Douglas, WI, County Board passed a resolution last night denying the use of county land for a controversial transmission line that has been proposed to run from Minnesota across Wisconsin. The line, know as Arrowhead-Weston, is a $420 million, 220-mile project proposed by the American Transmission Co. (ATC), Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service.
There is a significant difference in opinion about how much land is now off limits to the transmission line. In 2004, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission gave state approval of the route for the line through Wisconsin. The approved route brings the line across 13 miles of Douglas County-owned land. ATC believes easements for an existing line on much of this 13 mile stretch allow it, without county permission, to begin construction on the new line. ATC argues that only about 2.5 miles of the route are subject to the resolution passed last night. The county disagrees with ATC’s assessment and says that ATC cannot construct the line on any county land, period. The actions by the County Board set up a very interesting legal battle that will focus in on the issue of state vs. local authority over transmission lines as well the issue of condeming land using eminent domain powers.
ATC plans to immediately begin working with the WI Public Service Commission to re-route 2.5 miles of the project onto private land. Simultaneously, ATC will begin the condemnation process for the use of the 2.5 miles of county-owned land. “Ultimately, we hope the courts will allow us to condemn the county for the use of its land to avoid re-routing onto private land,” said Mark Williamson, vice president of major projects for ATC.
According to the Douglas County (WI) Clerk’s office, the resoution against the power line (copied below) passed on a vote of 15 yes, 11 no, 1 absent. The Board had originally alloted only a little over an hour for debate but in the end the hearing went over five hours. A second resolution to continue negotiating with ATC was tabled without discussion.
Supporters of the line argue the it is needed to ensure electric reliability and to spur economic development. Opponents argue that electric reliability can be improved and stabablized using more distributed generation in northwest Wisconsin and the line poses significant impacts on land values, health and the environment.
DOUGLAS COUNTY BOARD RESOLUTION #11-05
RESOLUTION BY THE ARROWHEAD TO WESTON POWER LINE COMMITTEE
Subject: Arrowhead to Weston Power Line Opposed
WHEREAS, the proposed Arrowhead to Weston Transmission Project crosses a substantial portion of Douglas County on its 210 mile route (25% of route in Douglas County), and
WHEREAS, the proposed route of approximately 55 miles in Douglas County is estimated to be 1/3 public and 2/3 private land, and
WHEREAS, Douglas County is concerned with the environmental destruction, quality of life degradation, property devaluation, public health and safety concerns, lost development potential, and future implications of corridor sharing involved with this project, and
WHEREAS, new easements would have to be granted on both new and existing right-of-ways for this project, and
WHEREAS, American Transmission Company, Minnesota Power, Wisconsin Public Service Commission, or any other utility do not have the right to condemn or build on Douglas County property without consent of Douglas County.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Douglas County Board of Supervisors opposes the Arrowhead to Weston transmission project and does not grant permission to use Douglas County land for this project.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that upon passage, copies of this resolution be sent to Governor Doyle, Wisconsin Public Service Commission, State Senator Robert Jauch, State Representative Frank Boyle, and the involved utilities.
DATEd this 2nd day of February, 2005.
- Arrowhead-Weston Transmission Line Information and Links – from Fresh Energy
- Douglas CountyWisconsin