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La Crosse County Judge Still Deciding Fate Of Badger-Coulee Line Project

Town Of Holland Appealed Badger-Coulee Line Approval, Presented Arguments At Hearing Monday

Power lines
Don Sutherland (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The fate of a project that first emerged in 2010 is now in the hands of a La Crosse County judge. In a hearing Monday afternoon, local and state officials made the case for and against a 180-mile transmission power line project that would run from the La Crosse area to the Madison area.

The American Transmission Company and Xcel Energy developed the Badger-Coulee Transmission Line project in 2010. The 345-kilovolt transmission power line is estimated to cost up to $580 million.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved the Badger-Coulee project April 2015. The Town of Holland appealed the Commission’s decision.

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Frank Jablonski, the Town of Holland’s attorney, argued the Commission didn’t legally approve the transmission line, claiming it failed to establish a need for it. He also argued the commission’s environmental review fell short and their decision is unsupportable because Wisconsin’s electricity use is falling flat.

“In order for there to be (electric) reliability problems arising, you’ve got to have growth,” Jablonski said. “We’re not seeing the growth we saw before because of the improvements in energy efficiency and a movement towards more service oriented economy which uses less energy.”

Alex Mahfood, the Public Service Commission’s attorney, argued the commission should be given broad deference to interpret their legal authority and determine whether the project is needed.

Elise Nelson, the commission’s communications director, said in a written statement that commissioners spent a year determining whether the project would benefit Wisconsin.

“Following a year-long process laid out explicitly in state statute, commissioners considered extensive public comment, arguments from both applicants and interveners in the case, the associated environmental impact statement, routing options and other information,” she said in the statement.

Nelson also wrote, “(The commission) ultimately determined, based upon substantial evidence, that the project was necessary to satisfy the needs of the public for an adequate supply of energy and would bring other significant benefits to the state.”

Judge Todd Bjerke hasn’t made a decision yet and it’s not clear when one will be issued.

Another power line, CapX2020, was recently built next to Highway 53 near Holmen, not far from the Town of Holland. Part of the Badger-Coulee Line would be built parallel to CapX2020 next to Highway 53 on separate poles.

ATC started building the eastern end of Badger-Coulee earlier this year. The power line is expected to be in service in 2018.