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SOUL president updates crowd at Stone Lake on efforts to stop the Power Up Wisconsin line

By Terrell Boettcher

Local residents heard the president of Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), Tom Kreager of Mosinee, outline the reasons why they feel the proposed Power Up Wisconsin transmission line is not needed and discuss current efforts to stop the line at a Wisconsin SOUL meeting at the Stone Lake Lions Hall last Saturday.
SOUL is a coalition of people, primarily land owners and other residents near the proposed 250-mile, 345,000-volt line, who have organized to lobby and testify to Wisconsin and Minnesota officials. They state that the line is not needed, would devastate the environment and be harmful to peopleıs health. They are urging that more natural-gas-fired generation plants be built in industrial areas to serve the electricity needs of those areas.
The line would pass through the towns of Frog Creek, Stinnett and Bass Lake in Washburn County and the towns of Bass Lake, Sand Lake, Couderay, Meteor and Weirgor in Sawyer County.
Scott Allen, the director of the Lac Courte Oreilles Community Development Corporation, told the crowd of about 100 people that ³This power line is a bad deal for this area. The power is not coming here. These towers will be 130 feet high and 150 feet wide, and 250 of these big, ugly structures will be put in Sawyer County alone. No one can say they are beautiful. ³The bottom line is, it will affect tourism,² Allen said. ³Tourists will go elsewhere. People from Chicago and Milwaukee want to get away from that kind of junk (power lines).²
Allen said the LCO Tribe is planning a forum on the power line issue to be held at the LCO Convention Center around the third week of April. Kreager said that the two power companies who are applying to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for permission to build the line, Duluth-based Minnesota Power and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, are using a three-year-old Wisconsin Energy Reliability Assessment as justification for the line.
The reliability report ³assumes that from 2000-2007, there will be new generation built in Wisconsin,² Kreager said. ³That is one way they try to justify importing 1,000 megawatts of electricity across the state. They say if the line is not built, another 800 megawatts of generation capacity would have to be built for Wisconsin to maintain reliability through the year 2007.²
However, the Public Service Commission has received applications for new generating plants in the southeast that would add 5,348 megawatts in the areas where the electricity is needed most, Kreager said. They are Badger Generating, Racine/Kenosha; Southern Energy, Neenah; Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha; and a proposed gas pipeline under Lake Michigan. The Pleasant Prairie plant would generate 1,048 megawatts adjacent to an industrial park, and would take up only 35 acres with no use of eminent domain and no public opposition, Kreager said. ³That plant was not considered in the power companiesı application² for the 345KV Duluth to Wausau (Arrowhead to Weston) power line, he said.
From 1997-99, 560 megawatts of new generation was added in the state, and this year, almost 1,000 megawatts of new generation are slated to come on line, he said. ³So things are not the same as in the summer of 1997, when there were major blackout problems.²
Kreager said that Wisconsin Public Service Corporation has added only 92 megawatts of new capacity in 15 years, of which eight megawatts was mandated energy conservation. ³So now, due to their lack of foresight or caring, I and you have to suffer, and they say we have to build this transmission line to keep the lights on. But (contrary to the power company advertisements), the lights will not go out if this power line is not built,² Kreager said. The proposed line, also known as Power Up Wisconsin, ³would take 3,500 acres in a 150-foot easement through pristine rural areas, and put residents of the area in harmıs way through electromagnetic fields and ground currents,² Kreager said.
³If a storm dropped these power lines and youıre within a few feet of them, the arc from the energized lines would kill you,² he said. The electricity to be transmitted on the Power Up line would bypass northern Wisconsin to supply energy to eastern Wisconsin and points south, Kreager added. No substations would be built in this area.
More and more frequently, industrial parks and industries are taking advantage of co-generation, where smaller natural-gas-powered turbine generators are built on site, Kreager said. They supply their own power and are never in danger of loss of power, fluctuating rates, or blackouts due to storms or problems with utility lines. But if the 345KV line goes down, 1,000 megawatts are lost, he said.
The proposed sources of the power to be transmitted on the 345KV line would be the North Dakota coal mines and Manitoba Hydro, both of which would lead to more environmental problems (mercury and acid rain emissions from coal-fired plants in the Dakotas and more flooding of native lands in Manitoba), Kreager indicated.
³If we allow the state and power companies to keep importing electricity into Wisconsin by transmission lines, with a growth rate (in demand) of 300 megawatts per year, they will build another 345KV line every 3 1/2 years,² Kreager added. ³So this will be a continuous, ongoing problem if we allow them to sell this line on that basis.
³As long as Wisconsin ties into external sources of electricity, basically youıre at the mercy of the supplier,ı Kreager added. ³Minnesota will add 360 megawatts of new generation in next several years, and Illinois will add 14,000 megawatts close to southeastern Wisconsin. So this new line has nothing to do with reliability, but itıs for for-profit corporations to make a killing.²
Kreager said that SOUL is putting together expert witnesses to question the power company witnesses at a hearing planned by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (MEQB) on April 20. The board there will decide on Minnesota Powerıs request that a construction permit for the 12 miles of the Power Up line in Minnesota be granted without the public scrutiny the process requires under the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act.
³ If we want to stop this thing, we need public support and pressure from people like yourself at the Public Service Commission, at MEQB, saying that ŒNo, we will not tolerate this,ı² Kreager added.
The MEQB has received more than 1,300 individual comments from citizens regarding disclosure of the regional environmental and social impacts of the 345KV line.
Several Town of Frog Creek board members at last Saturdayıs meeting said they have not been notified of the line passing through their township. Health concerns Kreager said that utilities in Wisconsin ³consider it a normal practice to use the earth as a return path for up to 30 percent of the electricity that goes into their lines. It will follow the path of least resistance, whether a pipeline or marsh, back to the substation. This 250-mile line will have ground rods, and it will act as a conductor for electricity through the ground.² To back up his statement, he referred listeners to the Wisconsin Public Service Commissionıs stray voltage report, and to an article published by the Wisconsin Agriculturist last summer.
SOUL secretary-treasurer Roger Steffen urged those at the meeting to talk to the local businesspeople ³because they need to be educated. They have heard only one side of the story.²
Allen said the tribal and nontribal communities ³need to work together² on this issue. ³We have to make it very expensive politically for Governor Thompson to push for this (line), so he puts pressure on the Public Service Commission to do away with this,² he said.
The Stone Lake Chapter of SOUL meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Stone Lake Lions Hall. The next meeting is on April 5. Informational literature published by SOUL is available at Frontier Realty in Stone Lake. The chapterıs mailing address is P.O. Box 203, Stone Lake, WI 54876. Wisconsin SOULıs mailing address is P.O. Box 11, Mosinee, WI 54455, or phone 715-693-3143.

SOULıs web site is (wakeup wisconsin.com). The power line applicantsı web site is (powerup wisconsin.com).