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Xcel Energy Proposes New Transmission Line In Northern Wisconsin

Residents Seeking More Time And Information About The Project


Xcel Energy is proposing a new 22-mile, 34.5-kilovolt transmission line on the tip of northern Wisconsin. The roughly $26 million project is necessary to strengthen power in the area, according to the company.

Xcel Energy has one transmission line providing power to the Bayfield Peninsula, which was installed during the 1950s, said project manager Chris Buboltz. He said it’s difficult to maintain the line or restore power during outages because it’s not easy to access.

“We’re just not able to do those maintenance and those refurbishment projects because we can’t take the line out to do them because people will be out of power,” he said.

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Buboltz said they’ve seen outages ranging from four to eight hours in the area due to accessibility and safety issues.

Xcel’s proposed line would include installing poles within the first 5 feet of a landowner’s property line. Around 130 private landowners would be impacted by the project along with 7.5 miles of county forest land.

Town of Washburn resident Roy Settgas said the new line would cross his property, which doesn’t bother him. But, he said it’s drawing concern for some landowners and requests for more consideration of the proposed route.

“Putting a bigger power line right through people’s front yards, it seems like a really tough thing to happen to somebody and also kind of the general vibe of our rural countryside, which is gorgeous and pretty pristine,” he said.

Michael Sterner lives in the city of Washburn, but he owns land near Xcel’s proposed route for a new transmission line. Sterner said residents have more questions than answers about the project, including what alternative routes have been considered.

“Are there paths where the impact to the community will be less because we’re following right of way where there is already existing distribution lines?” he said.

Xcel’s Buboltz said the utility company explored three options to provide a secondary source of power to the area, including the proposed route. The other two options included a parallel route or a double circuit near the existing transmission line.

“All three of those cost options were pretty cost comparable across the board, which makes our decision even more difficult,” Buboltz said.

Buboltz said the company considered reliability of power, environmental impacts and the safety of utility workers who would maintain the line.

Sterner said communities would like to see more time and information before any decisions are made on the project. The Bayfield County Board of Supervisors may consider easements and permits for county land that would be impacted by the project at its next meeting Tuesday, Sterner said.

“I do think that county action on the permit and easement could potentially have the project moving quicker than the communities would like it to be moving,” he said.

Two towns, Washburn and Bayview, have passed a resolution seeking more time to collaborate with the county on Xcel’s proposed line.

“All that we’re trying to do is slow this process down so the community can have more information and involvement in the process,” said Sterner. “The Bayfield County comprehensive plan states that utility improvements should be planned in a collaborative way with the surrounding jurisdictions.”

Buboltz said Xcel is delaying its timeline to start the permitting process with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which the company had set to begin next month. He said Xcel wants to talk with more people about the project and why they feel it’s needed.