re: proposed transmission lines Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2002 . 2001: 01-04. , 05-09 .
• 2000: 01-04, 05, 06-07, 08-10., 11 , 12..  1999 .
  WI Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
re: hydroelectric power Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001, 2000: 01-03., 04-07, 1999

power lines
Page Contents:

Proposed MN-WI transmission lines -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 2000 updates

"Cooking with Heart and Soul" is Save Our Unique Lands' (SOUL's) just- published collection of recipes from the kitchens of Wisconsin (plus a few other kitchens). From Women Activists' Chocolate Pie to Prairie Beer Cake to Venison Parmesan, you're sure to find something of interest.
Send your check (made out to SOUL) and your name and address to:
    Larry Pfaffendorf
    W 11330 Highway 8
    Kennan WI 54537
And at only $10 per book which includes shipping, this 110-page cookbook makes a great stocking stuffer!
And remember...good food fuels better activism!

Sawyer County Record, Hayward WI
commentaries from WPSC and SOUL

November 1, 2000

Power line needed to meet Wisconsin's energy demands

By Larry Borgard, Vice President
Transmission, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation

As an electric utility, Wisconsin Public Service has an obligation to provide safe and reliable energy. We take that obligation very seriously. That is why we are proposing the construction of a transmission line from Duluth to Wausau.

We also understand there are many concerns associated with this proposed power line project. However, it is important for everyone to realize that our current transmission system is fragile and is no longer sufficient to meet the growing electrical needs of this area. Wisconsin uses more energy than it can generate. Therefore, a strong interstate transmission system is critical for Wisconsin's future so we have the ability to import much needed energy.

This proposed power line project, called Power Up, is the result of the most comprehensive power line study conducted in this state in the past 20 years. The study indicated that electric transmission improvements were desperately needed in the state. Following this study, Minnesota Power (Duluth) and Wisconsin Public Service (Wausau) stepped forward to propose the joint project to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW), the state's utility regulators.

Wisconsin has only four major transmission lines that connect it with the neighboring states. In sharp contrast, Illinois has 25 lines and Minnesota has 18. There is only one west-to-east high voltage transmission line connection that runs from Minneapolis to Wisconsin. This single line is the backbone of the electric system that keeps the lights on in northern Wisconsin. Because of growing energy use, this line is becoming overburdened.

Some new smaller generation units are being proposed, while at the same time, the state's larger power plants are aging, and though still reliable, face the prospect of increased downtime for maintenance. Once these new generators are finally approved, constructed and operating, they still will not solve the problem of an inadequate transmission system.

Our state has an electric reliability problem. We are proposing what we feel is the most practical solution. We've looked at all the alternatives (renewable energy such as wind, solar, local generation, fuel cells, conservation, etc.) Some have potential. But as much as some people would like to believe, these alternatives are not sufficient to meet our immediate energy needs. The reliability problem needs to be fixed now.

We officially proposed the Power Up project to the PSCW in November. They have established a process which allows them to make a final decision by early 2001. The most critical part of their decision-making process involves getting public input on the project. Public hearings are scheduled, and widely publicized, later this year. We encourage everyone to become part of the decision making process by expressing their opinions at the hearings.

We can't wait any longer. The reliability problem will only worsen as Wisconsin experiences continued economic growth. There is no one perfect solution. The Power Up project is absolutely critical to help us meet our obligation to provide safe and reliable power. As stated before, we take this obligation very seriously.

For more information, visit our web site at

SOUL challenges the need for power line

By Linda Ceylor
SOUL board member

Save Our Unique Land's (SOUL's) reactions to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) are varied and complex. We encourage everyone to take time with this document, and take all comments to the public hearings scheduled Nov. 28 and Dec. 8 at various locations in northern Wisconsin.

It is extremely important to attend with testimony, as this will become part of the legal record, the only part that the three appointed Public Service Commissioners are legally bound to read as comments from the public that will help them decide on the need for this project.

We have noted that the FEIS compares Arrowhead-Weston via Tripoli to several other transmission system alternatives that could accomplish the same function. Of these, they state that Arrowhead-Weston "ranks highest in terms of susceptibility to environmental impact of nine of the 11 environmental factors reviewed." SOUL has continually stated that this line does not compliment our environment in the north, which we feel is echoed with this statement and the pages of documentation as to the potential environmental harm and problems with line siting in the proposed areas of construction.

SOUL continues to challenge the need for the transmission line, and has much information on distributed generation technologies, represented within alternatives to Arrowhead-Weston mentioned in the FEIS. The costs listed in the document appear quite close. While we are encouraged, we still have many issues within both these costs and the construction costs of the line itself. Examination of proposed generation within the area of need and upgrades to the infrastructure as alternatives are also noted.

The FEIS questions the fairness of siting a line in an area noted for a lack of geographic density. Encouraging question, as this is probably the first time any document has had to take a look at this issue. Land values, health effects, stray voltage and aesthetics are only briefly examined in this document. SOUL has much independent and peer, reviewed information about any and all these issues; these are other areas that look as though more information could have been gathered.

Since the release of both the draft EIS and FEIS, there have been press announcements by utilities in the "area of need" that almost 9,000 megawatts of electricity will be proposed by Certificate of Public Need to the PSC for potential construction. The area that these plants will operate should have little impact on local citizens, as they are to be constructed in industrial areas, and areas adjacent to existing power plants. One such plant, adding 1,050 megawatts in the area of need, Badger Gen plant in Kenosha, has been approved and will begin construction. This, of course, removes any reliability arguments for Arrowhead-Weston, as the energy would be located at the point of need, and the infrastructure is already in place to transport the electricity to points of need. Again, the FEIS takes these points into consideration with the end statements pointing to a lack of need for the project.

You should additionally be aware of the needs of the 115kV transmission line that will come out of the Tripoli area, as a part of the Arrowhead-Weston project. This line is examined in the FEIS as a "repair and upgrade" for the current problems in the existing transmission lines for the Merrill, Antigo and Rhinelander area. Advance Plan B, 1998, had mentioned eight possibilities for potential ideas to repair and upgrade these lines. Only one of the solutions involves a 345kV source of energy.

In fact, the utilities were to have performed the necessary upgrades in 1999. Rather, this situation appears again in the application of the Arrowhead-Weston transmission line. The advance plans were replaced by the strategic energy assessment, of which the draft SEA was published in June of 2000. In this document, the need for an additional energy source for the 20.5 mW necessary for the Crandon Mine is mentioned. It should additionally be noted that WPS has stationed 18 SMES semi-trailers in this area (WUMS) that have been in operation since summer of 2000. This is a form of distributed generation that actually supplies any needs for energy in the area. The lives of these units are a minimum of 15 years. I can provide documentation on this subject.

In summary, there is much to both work with and challenge in the FEIS. SOUL is looking at the text, and hopes to do both. With support from over 10,000 letters decrying the project and resolutions against it in 11 counties, our legal team and expert witnesses, along with 11,500 people impacted by these utilities, we are highly motivated. This document by no means answers all questions connected with a project of this magnitude, nor do we feel entirely positive or negative about the report. We hope that citizens take time to really ask the hard questions about actual needs for electricity throughout the state, and appropriate energy policies to address those needs, now and in the future, especially since this state is on a course toward deregulation.

SOUL's website is


Transmission line in trouble

Front page headline in Saturday's Capital Times: "DNR, fed agency rip proposal for big power line up north." The WI Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service have advised against hanging a 250-mile electrical transmission line across northwestern Wisconsin saying that the project would substantially damage the environment.

REMEMBER: Just as the death of the Crandon mine was declared prematurely in 1998, and believed by many people, the transmission line fight is still very much alive, despite this significant development. The first PSC line hearing is Tuesday 9 am and 7 pm at the Rhinelander Holiday Inn, with a 12 noon rally called by Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) and Wolf Watershed Educational Project (WWEP), opposing both the line and its connection to the Crandon mine. Please come with signs!

ALSO: Governor Thompson has urged Perrier to pull out of Adams County, but the company has also been looking at other spring sites around Wisconsin. It Ain't Over Till It's Over!!!



Power line hearings begin
Wisconsin panel to decide project's fate

by Steve Kuchera
Duluth News Tribune
November 26, 2000

After months of controversy, public rallies, letter-writing drives and advertising campaigns, the fate of the proposed Arrowhead-Weston power line moves into a new and potentially emotional arena in Wisconsin this week.

Public hearings on the proposed 250-mile, 345-kilovolt power line between Hermantown and Wausau, Wis., begin Tuesday. The public's testimony will go into the case's official record, which the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin uses to decide the project's fate.

The record will also include testimony delivered by expert witnesses during technical hearings beginning in January.

The three-member PSC could decide whether to approve or reject the application of Minnesota Power and the Wisconsin Public Service Corp. to build the line by April or May.

Wisconsin's public hearings will look familiar to those who attended Minnesota's hearings earlier this year in Proctor. A court reporter will record the testimony. An administrative law judge will run the hearings, calling upon people to speak and limiting their testimony if necessary.

The thought of having limitations placed on his testimony doesn't sit well with South Range farmer and Save Our Unique Lands member Mark Liebaert.

"For 1.5 years we've been waiting to have our say," he said. "Can you imagine me trying to say everything I want to in two or three minutes?"

To help strengthen its crusade against the project, SOUL is encouraging its members and supporters to attend the hearings. The group plans two rallies at Tuesday's opening hearing in Rhinelander.

The rallies are in part to protest that the three-member PSC isn't attending the hearings. Liebaert said the commissioners should come to the hearings, since they won't get a true feeling for the views of area residents by poring over thousands of pages of testimony.

"They are not going to read the tears, the anger, the sadness," he said.

However, it's typical for commissioners not to attend public hearings, even in high-profile cases, because of their workload, PSC spokeswoman Annmarie Newman said.

Some of the commissioners may attend one or more of the hearings individually, she added.

"They have to weigh whether their attendance would contribute to or distract from building a complete and adequate record," Newman said.

As the public hearings draw close, project supporters and opponents both stepped up efforts to win backing for their positions. Two weeks ago the pro-power line Energy Lifeline Coalition of Wisconsin reminded area residents that counties and communities along Wisconsin's section of the line would share in millions of dollars of environmental impact fees if the project proceeds.

And on Tuesday, SOUL held a news conference at the state Capitol to say the utilities that want the line haven't proven that it is necessary or will save customers money.

Richard Rosen, a senior research director for the Boston-based, nonprofit Tellus Institute, said the utilities' application is biased against possible alternatives.

Rosen, one of SOUL's witnesses for the technical hearings, also said the companies didn't analyze power prices in the region and therefore can't say that the line would be cost-effective.

The utilities disagree with Rosen's statements, holding that the line is necessary to improve the reliability of the region's transmission network and to help Wisconsin meet its growing energy needs.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota parties have until Dec. 5 to submit post-hearing briefs on Minnesota Power's request for an exemption from state permit requirements to upgrade 12 miles of high-voltage transmission line between Hermantown and Oliver as part of the larger Arrowhead-Weston project.

If the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board rejects the request, the company will have to go through a longer application process.

The administrative law judge who presided over the public and technical hearings in Proctor could make a recommendation on the exemption request to the MEQB yet this year.


DNR, Park Service question transmission line

Nov. 27, 2000

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A proposed electrical line across northwestern Wisconsin would substantially damage the environment, the state Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service say. They expressed their views last week to the state Public Service Commission, which will determine how or whether the project will proceed.

The 250-mile Arrowhead-Weston transmission line, suspended by 100-foot-tall towers, would run from Duluth, Minn., to Wausau. David Siebert, a DNR environmental analyst, said constructing any power line of that size would have significant adverse impacts on the environment. Siebert said he and other DNR analysts are "especially concerned about the potential impacts of a large transmission line crossing northwestern Wisconsin."

"Our concerns include impacts of forest fragmentation, impacts to wetlands, impacts to endangered and threatened species and habitats, impacts to streams and stream corridors and impacts to recreation on state, county, federal and private lands," he said. Siebert said the DNR's view is that PSC "must reject the project as proposed," adding that the PSC's environmental impact study does not clearly demonstrate a need for the proposed line.

The National Park Service noted the proposed line would cross numerous streams, including the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Namekagon River. It also would cross the Ice Age Trail and the North Country Trail, two of eight National Scenic Trails in the United States. The National Park Service echoed many of the environmental concerns put forth by Siebert and the DNR, and also called the environmental impact study employed by the PSC "not adequate."

"We seriously question the need for the Arrowhead-Weston line," the National Park Service said in written testimony.



PSC hearing testimony on proposed power line across north

Nov. 29, 2000

RHINELANDER, Wis. (AP) - Utility regulators took testimony in the heart of the north Tuesday on a proposed electrical transmission line that would run 225 miles across the northwestern corner of Wisconsin, linking Duluth, Minn. and Wausau.

"I am concerned for all of the farmers and other landowners who make a living off of this area," said Margaret Buchberger of Marathon City. "Since this land represents their livelihood, this proposal means life or death for them." She said her family uses the land for logging and plans to grow ginseng, but a power line would cut across the farmland and prevent the use of large machinery needed for logging.

"The Public Service Commission will ultimately decide whether the line should be built, whether some modification of this project should be built, or if this project should not be built at all," said Jeffrey L. Butson, public affairs director for the PSC.

He said there was a clear division on the proposal by Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. for the 345,000-volt line, as expressed at various public information sessions held by the commission.

"Primarily we are hearing (from the public) that this project ruins their land," he said. "It basically cuts across their land which will, they believe, affect their property value should they choose to sell. They did not intend to use the land for that purpose. A lot of these people retired on their land and use it for recreation," Butson said. "There are also growing concerns about some of the health issues associated with a power line."

But business representatives view the line as a plus for economic development.

"Reliable power is very important to encourage new businesses into town, and some businesses rely on it for other reasons," Butson said.

A group of demonstrators carried anti-power line signs and erected a mock graveyard including an effigy of Gov. Tommy Thompson outside the entrance to the hotel where the hearing was held.

A Madison-based group called the Wisconsin Environmental Coalition of Labor and Industry approved a resolution in support of the power line project. The group was formed last spring and said its purpose is to identify and act on environmental issues that have an impact on jobs, employees and employers.

The resolution calls for the PSC to approve the transmission line. The group said it would be presented as part of the public record at the PSC hearing scheduled Monday in Superior.




Minnesota PUC OKs proposal for purchase of Canadian power

Tom Meersman
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 1, 2000

Minnesota officials gave the go-ahead Thursday to a controversial proposal that would allow Xcel Energy Corp. to develop a final contract to continue purchasing power generated by hydroelectric plants in Manitoba. Environmental and religious organizations had attempted to delay the deal -- a renewal of a long-term 500-megawatt contract between Xcel and its provider, Manitoba Hydro -- until a study could be done on the social and economic costs of hydropower to tribes whose lands were flooded 25 years ago.

Andrew Orkin, an attorney representing one of those tribes, the Pimicikamak Cree Nation, told utility regulators on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that hydropower is not a benign source of electricity. "It's not clean and it's not cheap, and its production has involved violations of human rights that also caused gross destruction of the environment," he said.

However, Xcel officials noted that buying hydropower from Manitoba is good for Minnesota customers because it allows the utility, formerly known as Northern States Power Co., to receive electricity from diverse sources and at competitive prices. Conducting a study and halting the contract renewal process with Manitoba Hydro would have a chilling effect on Xcel's bidding process, said Christopher Clark, an attorney for Xcel.

Diane Peterson, representing the Twin Cities Friends Committee, a Quaker community, said that continued purchase of Manitoba electricity amounted to "fencing stolen goods from the North American wilderness." She said that Minnesotans "collaborate in an injustice" against Canadian tribes by continuing to purchase electricity.

PUC members were wary about becoming involved in Manitoba's internal disputes, especially since five tribes and the Canadian government signed an agreement about the dams in 1977. There is considerable dispute about whether that agreement has been honored, and PUC Chairman Gregory Scott said it was not appropriate for Minnesota to be drawn into the fight.

"For me to come in now and substitute my judgment would be sheer lunacy as far as I'm concerned." Scott said.

The commission also heard from representatives of two other Cree nations who settled many of their problems with Manitoba Hydro during in the 1990s.

PUC members said they were concerned about the social and economic costs of generating electricity from all sources, and voted to initiate an investigation on that topic next year.

Tom Meersman can be contacted at




Grandmother battles power line
First of 16 public hearings held on project

By Nikki Kallio
Wausau Daily Herald
Nov. 29, 2000

RHINELANDER -- When activists marched for peace in the 1960s, Marathon resident Lee Ann Thomsen was busy raising her four children.

But when she found out a power line could run through the middle of her property, she decided it was time to start pounding the pavement. "This touches very close to home," Thomsen said. "It's very important to me and my family."

More than a year ago, Thomsen almost dismissed as junk mail a letter from utilities notifying her of the 345,000-volt, 250-mile power line. Now she's one of the most active members of Save Our Unique Lands, or SOUL, a group opposing the line.

On Tuesday, she and about 50 other SOUL members attended the first of 16 public hearings on the project. Tuesday's meetings were held at the Holiday Inn in Rhinelander. About 40 people had signed up by noon to either speak or submit comments in writing, mostly opposing the line. Thomsen planned to speak at a later hearing.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the state's utility regulator, is holding the hearings in northern and central Wisconsin to gather opinions and information to determine whether the power line is needed.

The utilities, Wisconsin Public Service and Minnesota Power, are proposing the line because they say it will increase electrical reliability in both states. Opponents fear negative effects to health, environment, agriculture and property. They also doubt the project's need and say other alternatives should be examined.

Jeffrey L. Butson, public affairs director for the Public Service Commission, said there is a clear division between residents who don't want the line to cut across their land and business representatives who fear power shortages.

"Reliable power is very important to encourage new businesses into town, and some businesses rely on it for other reasons," Butson said.

A Madison-based group called the Wisconsin Environmental Coalition of Labor and Industry approved a resolution in support of the power line project. The group was formed last spring and said its purpose is to identify and act on environmental issues that have an impact on jobs, employees and employers. The resolution calls for the PSC to approve the transmission line. The group said its resolution would be presented as part of the public record at the PSC hearing scheduled Monday in Superior.

Thomsen said the harmful effects of the line would go beyond what can be seen. "My husband's grandfather that came from Germany cut the logs and built the house that we live in," she said. "It's a great big, two-story house. That's where we live, and that's where we entertain family and friends. Our land and our surroundings are very important to us."

The 58-year-old grandmother of three has organized bus trips to Madison for protest rallies and has spent countless hours arranging speakers and carrying homemade signs.

If the line is built along the southernmost proposed route, she said, it will cut directly through both 80-acre parcels she and her husband own. Her southern windows will frame a picture of 150-foot, metal structures and electrical lines.

"I love it out there, and I want to keep it green," Thomsen said. "We have wolves, we have coyotes, we have bear, deer, all that on our property. And it's like, 'How much is this line going to affect any of this?' Nobody really knows."

And it's more than aesthetics or the effect to the environment, she said. It's the implications for the future. She and her husband, Jack, would like to pass along their land to their children, and she's also concerned about the health of her grandchildren.

"It makes me very sad to think that their lives and their welfare and health could be affected by something that I don't really feel -- at this point, unless it's proven differently -- is necessary," Thomsen said. "We all need energy, we all live around energy, but I do think we need to make it as safe as possible in order to be considerate of one another."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo at




Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2002 . 2001, 01-04 , 05-09 .
• 2000: 01-04, 05, 06-07, 08-10, 11 , 12 . 1999 .
Wisconsin's Rural RebellionModel Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2001, 2000: 01-03, 04-07 . 1999 .
Midwest Treaty Network Contents