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 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

December
2000 updates


 

Minnesota PUC OKs proposal for purchase of Canadian power
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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 meersman@startribune.com

 

 

 

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



By Nikki Kallio
Wausau Daily Herald
Nov. 29, 2000
nkallio@wdhprint.com


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 http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/headlines/headlocal1.html

 

 

Power Plant Siting and Transmission Line Routing Program
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annual public meeting



Power Plant Siting and Transmission Line Routing Program annual public meeting

Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, St. Paul
December 2, 2000


Thursday's hearing at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on the contractual relationship between Xcel and Manitoba Hydro resulted in a unanimous decision to open a new docket next year to formally investigate the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of all generation sources for the state of Minnesota.

While environmental externalities were all the rage in the early 1990s, attention shifted to readily quantifiable methods, or even waned altogether with the advent of deregulation. However, increased concern about global climate change, as well as Minnesotans' realization that the state is the primary beneficiary of Manitoba's socially and environmentally devastating hydropower, have refocused public attention. Moreover, the forecasted capacity shortage in the mid-American transmission region, which includes Minnesota and Manitoba, and the continued continental restructuring debate point out the necessity of Minnesota developing an adequate socio-economic perspective promptly.

In particular, because Manitoba Hydro is Xcel's largest supplier of hydroelectricity and is expected to be a competitive bidder in Xcel's next resource plan scheduled for late fall 2001, the order is both timely and relevant.

The order is a significant step forward for Minnesotans to better comprehend the full impacts of Manitoba Hydro's daily operations in Manitoba and upon Pimicikamak Cree Nation's (PCN) boreal environment and ways of life. If the order functions as many who attended the hearing intend it will, it can establish mechanisms to research, address and interpret externalities, based upon a comprehensive regional perspective. It can open avenues to obtain data from the extraordinarily secretive Manitoba Hydro which -- if it were an American utility -- would be fully available to all.

First, however, comes interpreting what the PUC had in mind at the time of their unanimous decision. The commissioners made it clear that they will invite all parties to participate. This invitation is welcomed by PCN which finds itself mis-characterized in the United States as a party in a dispute which should only be resolved in Canada. PCN's interest in critical regional energy and environmental issues is not self-serving. It is the natural and logical outcome of an indigenous people's socioeconomic and environmental connectedness to a highly sensitive and important component of the North American environment.

I encourage the Environmental Quality Board's inclusion and participation as one of these parties, along with all concerned Midwest energy, environmental, human rights and faith communities, to ensure that the PUC's order is effective, equitable and expeditious.

Ann Stewart, (Information Officer, Pimicikamak Cree Nation)
121 West Grant Street/Suite 116, Minneapolis MN 55403-2340 USA
p: 612.871.8404, e: stewartship@visi.com, f: 612.871.7922

This material is distributed by Ann Stewart (USDOJ FARA #5313) on behalf of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington DC, where the government may deem this information to be "propaganda".

 


Testimony to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission
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Docket 05-CE-113
Arrowhead-Weston Electric Transmission Line



Michael Isham, Jr., Vice Chairman
Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Hayward, Wisconsin
December 6, 2000


My name is Michael J. Isham, Jr., and I am the Vice Chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. We are a federally recognized tribe organized pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 25 U.S.C., Sec. 462, et. seq.

We entered into treaties with the United States in 1836, 1837 and 1842. In these treaties, our chiefs negotiated long and hard to forever secure this beautiful 76,000 acres of our homeland. They also reserved the rights to fish, hunt and gather in the territories we ceded. This ceded territory encompasses roughly the top third of Wisconsin and parts of northern Michigan and Minnesota.

This territory is where we intend to live forever and feed countless generations off of the resources of the area. We must do everything in our power to protect our reserve and ceded territory and that is why we have so many concerns about the proposed power line project.

Before I list some of our concerns, I need to make something perfectly clear. Executive Order Number 13084, signed by President Clinton, requires entities such as the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to conduct a government-to-government consultation when any proposed projects may impact a federally recognized tribal nation.

This has not taken place with Lac Courte Oreilles.

This is a public hearing and I want to take the opportunity to re-state our opposition to the proposed Arrowhead-to-Weston project, but we are not the general public. Lac Courte Oreilles is a sovereign nation and compliance to the executive order has not taken place.

Lac Courte Oreilles, also known as LCO, has extremely high cancer rates. We are currently doing many studies to help us find out why. One factor that might be having effects on us is the ELF project near the east end of our reservation in Clam Lake, Wisconsin. ELF stands for extremely low frequencies, which literally bombard us daily with electromagnetic fields. Now there is a possiblity that this transmission line will go on the west side of our reservation, so basically we could be sandwiched between ELF and the transmission line bombarding us daily with increased magnetic fields, stray voltage and harmonics. We fear this will elevate our cancer rates even more, when our cancer rates are already unacceptably high. Experts for the utility companies state there is inconclusive evidence of transmission lines causing cancer. I believe that the burden of proof should rest on the utility companies to first provide absolute proof that transmission lines of any size will not cause cancer.

We are also concerned for our sacred mother earth and the traditional foods and materials she continues to provide us. If this project is approved, many of our subsistence resources, medicinal plants and cultural sites are potentially in jeopardy. What will affect mother earth affects her children.

LCO, like many of our neighbors, relies on tourism. We believe potential environmental damage, health factors, and ugly transmission lines will negatively affect our primary industry in the north.

In addition, we are concerned about who will profit from this proposal. It appears that the majority of economic benefit will go to corporations, people in other cities, profiteers at the coal plants and foreign suppliers. Once again, the rural residents in the north receive little opportunity for economic gains from local employment of localized generation. They get the proverbial goldmine and we get the proverbial shaft.

Corporations have enormous political clout. We do not have the numbers to drive the political machine, so we get projects like ELF and the transmission line shoved into our lives. We call this "Environmental Injustice." Ignoring sovereign tribal nations and ignoring the executive order are what we believe to be "Environmental Racism."

So what is new? History is repeating itself. Back in 1923, a federal power commission forced another electrical project on us. They ignored the devastating effects of their project on the LCO people and flooded our villages, cultural sites, burial grounds, wild rice beds and thousands of acres of forests. We cannot allow any more losses to occur.

Manitoba Hydro, a big player in this project, has created the same devastation for our Cree brothers and sisters to the north, by flooding over their ancestral lands. Although we support tribal self-determination and self-governance, we could never support a project by a company that puts greed and money as a priority over the suffering of the Indigneous people. Especially when a tribal nation comes to us expressing their concerns.

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board supports local generation and alternative renewable sources of electrical generation as the best and most efficient method for meeting a particular community's needs. We believe a 250-mile transmission line is the least efficient method, especially when people who will not bear the burden or the negative impacts will gain the profits and benefits.

We are the ones who have to bear the burdens and we are the ones who should decide and we say "Gaween" -- "NO" -- to the proposed Arrowhead to Weston transmission line.

 

LINKS:
Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) http://www.wakeupwisconsin.com
Unplug Manitoba Hydro http://www.unplugmanitobahydro.com

 

Minn. Aquarium Feud Fuels Power Line Dispute
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By Jon Kamp
of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Dec. 8, 2000


CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Sturgeon General's warning: denouncing major power line projects may be hazardous to your job.

Andrew Slade is the former education director for the new Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minn., home of the "Sturgeon General" mascot. He recently quit after publicly criticizing a plan by Minnesota Power Co. and WPS Resources Corp.'s (WPS) Wisconsin Public Service Corp. to build a 345-kilovolt, 250-mile transmission line between Duluth and Wisconsin.

In a Sept. 10 installment of his regular environmental column for the Duluth News Tribune, Slade suggested that there were alternative ways to boost reliability in the state, such as adding more generation or trimming consumption.

However, the companies say the transmission line will provide reliable power service in a state that's seen demand boom. Minnesota Power officials took offense to what they saw as inaccuracies in Slade's column, and Chief Executive Ed Russell wrote an angry letter to aquarium officials. Allete (ALE), Minnesota Power's parent, is a major contributor to the aquarium.

Slade soon resigned, declining to state a reason.

Minnesota Power maintains it never threatened to pull its aquarium funding - it's committed to give the institution $150,000 a year through 2001 - or demanded that Slade be removed. It did ask the aquarium to stop using its name in connection with the education department because of the article, spokesman Jim Roberts said.

Slade said Allete incorrectly read his account as a personal attack and he's privately apologized to the company and the aquarium for any misleading statements.

The involved parties now seem ready to move past the controversy. But the issue has remained alive in the Duluth newspaper's editorial pages. The strong grassroots opposition has come from all sides, even the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Canada.

"We knew (the project) would be controversial," Roberts said. But "we certainly didn't anticipate something like this."

In Wisconsin, where almost all of the high-powered transmission line will run, state utility regulators have held public meetings around the state to take comments on the project. The meetings end Friday and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has received more than 1,000 written and oral statements as testimony, spokesman Jeff Butson said.

Virtually all the testimony has been against the project with concerns about property value, aesthetics and electromagnetic fields leading the way, he said. In his 16 years at the PSC, no other project has met such strong and organized opposition from protesters, he added.

"These folks have made this a full-time emotional, committed job," said Maripat Blankenheim, spokeswoman for American Transmission Co. LLC, a company that will operate transmission assets for most Wisconsin utilities starting Jan. 1.

Larry Borgard, vice president of transmission and engineering at Public Service, suggested that the Internet has allowed protesters to develop stronger coalitions. A Wisconsin group called SOUL, or Save Our Unique Lands, for example, maintains a Web site dedicated to stopping the transmission project at http://www.wakeupwisconsin.com.

Despite the opposition, though, the companies are still battling for the power line, which has an expected $200 million price tag.

While reliable service is the driving motive, the companies say, they also are eying healthy returns on their investment. Based on recent transmission charges the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has allowed other utilities, the companies expect a 9% to 10% annual return on the depreciating value of their system, Roberts said.

"There is a return on the investment you have to make - otherwise why make it?" he said.

While proponents and opponents of the transmission line have produced dueling studies that debate whether it's needed, industry officials mostly agree that Wisconsin needs more power.

The Mid American Interconnected Network Inc., the region's voluntary grid monitoring group, said in a pre-summer report that power import capability in Wisconsin was very thin.

Few new power links into the state have been added in recent decades despite growing stress on the current system. That stress is costing utilities large industrial customers who can't live through frequent outages, Roberts said.

"We have lost a lot of them," he said, including paper and wood products giant Boise Cascade Corp. (BCC).

The Wisconsin PSC will hold technical hearings on the plan in January. Minnesota Power and Public Service both hope the hearings will counterbalance some of the fever-pitched opposition to the project the Commission has so far witnessed.

"None of the technical evidence has been presented yet," Borgard said. "I'm pretty confident that once the commission hears the evidence there won't be a question" on whether the line is needed to maintain reliability, he said.


Dow Jones Energy Service
(Copyright (c) 2000, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
(This article was originally published Thursday)



Counterpoint: The truth about power line's 'broad' support
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Michael Noble
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 11, 2000, pA14


In his Nov. 15 Commentary article, attorney Curt Pawlisch mischaracterizes the opposition to the proposed 250-mile Duluth-Wausau high-voltage transmission line his clients seek to build across Wisconsin. He writes that "while the project has engendered some opposition from Wisconsin citizens who live near the proposed line, a broad coalition has formed to support it."

It's true that the line has engendered "some opposition" locally. To date, county governments in Douglas, Price, Sawyer, Clark, Taylor, Lincoln, Marathon and Rusk counties have all passed resolutions opposing the line, as have more than 60 village, town and city governments, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has received more than 10,000 letters and cards on the issue. Citizens who live near the proposed line are concerned, among other things, about property values, the economic impacts on tourism and farming, and the environmental impacts on Wisconsin's forest lands.

But Wisconsin opposition to the line is statewide, and indeed the proposal has met with stiff resistance in Minnesota as well, where the first leg of the proposed line would be built, and in Manitoba, where Cree homelands have already been devastated by Manitoba Hydro. The effects of this ill-conceived plan for bulk transfer of electricity across Wisconsin will go far beyond the local impacts of the line itself. Transmitting energy from Midwestern coal plants and from hydro dams in Manitoba is not the public-interest solution to the needs of Milwaukee and Chicago. While it may be the most profitable in the short run for utility companies that anticipate a deregulation bonanza, it's an example of planning for the past. Our energy future lies in clean, economical and sustainable solutions, including a diverse and decentralized generation capacity. New technologies are needed to power the economy of the 21st century.

Wisconsin's utilities and their biggest industrial customers are augmenting their direct lobbying effort with the grass-roots-sounding "Energy Lifeline Coalition of Wisconsin." They're to be complimented on their clever name -- it's almost as good as the "Greening Earth Society," a coal-industry P.R. front that promotes the idea that global climate change is a good thing.

Like Minnesota's corporate cheerleaders for coal, who have formed a P.R. campaign called "Partners for Affordable Energy," the Lifeline Coalition tries to present itself as a public-interest group. It calls itself a "broad coalition," but it is counting not on breadth but on the depth of its pockets to win the day.

Michael Noble. Executive director, Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy, St. Paul.
� Copyright 2000 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

 


Speakers blast proposed power line as destructive
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by Terrell Boettcher
Sawyer County Record, Hayward WI
December 13, 2000


A 345,000-volt electrical transmission line proposed to run from Duluth to Wausau through portions of Washburn and Sawyer counties would be enormously destructive of property values, wildlife and the landscape while posing a great risk to human health.

That was the overwhelming consensus of about 80 people who offered oral or written testimony at a Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing on December 6 at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College. Several hundred people attended the hearing, which lasted about 11 hours.

The applicants for the transmission line, Minnesota Power of Duluth and Wisconsin Public Service Commission of Green Bay, did not offer testimony at the December 6 hearing, but their attorneys questioned some of the speakers.

Other parties in the case include the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), both in opposition to the line.

The companies will give testimony on technical aspects of their proposal at a PSC hearing starting January 3 in Madison. After that, the three-member PSC will make its decision.

The companies have proposed the line as a means to increase the reliability of electrical power to the state and serving its increasing electrical demand. But the line's opponents said the companies aren't taking into account new gas-fired generating plants which will be built in southeastern Wisconsin, that they refuse to invest in new generating technology, and that the line will not benefit people in northern Wisconsin.

"This proposal is not only the largest one that the commissioners have ever considered, but also the one with the greatest human cost," said State Representative Gary Sherman. "Hundreds of people have testified about the burden that this line will place on them. They are saying that northwestern Wisconsin is a unique place, that they love it, and that this power line will do great damage to those aspects that make it worth the considerable sacrifice that it takes to live here."

As demonstrated in the final environmental impact statement prepared by PSC staff, "this is not the most reasonable means of meeting Wisconsin's future energy needs," Sherman continued. "It is like using a sledgehammer to pound in a thumb tack."

Rendered 'useless'

In testimony typical of several speakers, Stanley Davies, Town of Stinnett, said that the 17 acres he owns near the Namekagon River south of Hayward would become "useless" from the proposed 345KV line running through it.

He and his wife purchased the property in hopes of providing a retirement home and a place for their grandchildren to come, Davies said. But the line wouldn't enable that to be built. The companies are allowed to condemn private property under the power of eminent domain, and he has been told that all he would be paid for would be the two acres of right of way.

Kerry Jarvis, Stone Lake, said that a section of the new power line would run 300 yards from the back of their home, and another section would be 200 yards from the Stone Lake Elementary School, where both of their children attend.

Jarvis added that "Our children would be exposed to the electromagnetic poisoning almost constantly as they play ball games at the Stone Lake Lions Park.

"I don't want this line to go anywhere," Jarvis said. "Its detrimental effects on human, plant and animal life would far outweigh any benefit, no matter where it would be placed."

The line would cut the Jarvis farm in two, and "Our hopes (to farm) would be squelched by this line," Jarvis said. "How can our farms continue to function? How can we be justly compensated for the loss forever of the use of our land and the joy of seeing the wildlife that would leave or die because of the line?"

Greg Furtman of Webster said that the 345KV line would subject adjacent dairy farmers to much higher electromagnetic fields that will make parts of their fields unsafe to work, and subject their cattle to even more stray voltage problems.

Pat Patko, a Stone Lake area real estate broker and land owner, said that "This line will not serve our area, and there doesn't seem to be any real reason why the penalty should fall upon us to live with these lines and towers.

"No matter which route is chosen in the Stone Lake area, that line will be visible over the water of this beautiful (Sand Lake) to at least three-fourths of the property owners on the lake," Patko said.

"These towers are ugly," she said. "They don't fit the view that most of the people coming to this area to buy a retirement home or vacation home want. Approval of this line will make all of these properties harder to sell, they will take longer to sell, and it will probably mean that they will sell for less money than they would if the line was not constructed."

Most area residents rely on land values for their retirement income, she added. "It is not fair to take from people who live in the area and give to big corporations that are only interested in the profit from the line."

Patko said that the power companies won't run the line through the national forest, "because it isn't a good thing for forests and wildlife. So how can it be good for people? What we have here is our environment. If you take that away, you take away our way of life."

James Block, a Town of Frog Creek supervisor in Washburn County, said that each parcel of undeveloped land within one-quarter mile of the 345KV line would be devalued by $1,000 to $2,500, and each dwelling would be devalued by $10,000 to $20,000.

"This is a terrible loss for these property owners, a third to a half of the home owners' annual incomes," Block said.

"This is an ugly project, visually and audibly, and Minnesota Power makes an ugly neighbor," Block added. "Rural people do not want a gigantic corporation for a neighbor. The (companies') attitude is that their stockholders are more important than being fair and honest to their neighbor."

Block said that "There will be a continuous hum from this line, and the towers will be high enough to require navigational lights. The citizens of Frog Creek will get no cheap electricity from this line, and no jobs, or even the good feeling of having done something for your fellow citizens."

Health risks

Lac Courte Oreilles tribal vice-chairman Michael "Mic" Isham Jr. said that tribal members "have extremely high cancer rates, and we are currently doing many studies to help us find out why."

He said he fears that the reservation may be "sandwiched" between the existing Project ELF transmission line to the east, and the Power Up 345KV line to the west, "bombarding us daily with increased magnetic fields, stray voltage and harmonics. We fear this will elevate even more our already unacceptably high cancer rates. I believe that the burden of proof should rest on the utility companies to first provide absolute proof that transmission lines of any size will not cause cancer."

Isham added that "We are also concerned that if this project is approved, many of our subsistence resources, medicinal plants and cultural sites are potentially in jeopardy.

"Once again, the rural residents in the north receive little opportunity for economic gain from local employment or localized generation," Isham continued. "They (the power companies) get the proverbial gold mine and we get the shaft."

Isham said that the Public Service Commission failed to conduct government-to-government consultation with Lac Courte Oreilles or any other area tribal nation as required by a presidential executive order when any proposed projects may impact them.

A consulting archeologist for the LCO Tribe, Will Gilmore, said that there are "potentially important burial and ceremonial sites (off the reservation) that will be disturbed and destroyed after construction is underway" of the proposed line.

He urged the PSC to reject the application until the Tribal Historic Preservation Office is a full participant, and these sites can be identified, preserved and protected.

Cree chiefs testify

Several representatives of Cree First Nations in Manitoba testified at the hearing, in regard to potential effects on them if Manitoba Hydro sells more electricity to Minnesota Power as the result of a new transmission line being built.

The chief of the Cross Lake Cree, John Miswagon, said such a line would "only worsen" the environmental and social problems in his reserve which began as the result of hydro-electric dams and flooding 25 years ago that forever altered the people's traditional way of life.

However, two other Cree nation spokespersons disagreed with Miswagon. An attorney for the Split Lake Cree, Douglas McKenzie, said that "we are not telling Wisconsin whether this line is good or not; (the state) will make up its own mind. We do not wish impacts upon the northern Cree to be used for your assessing the need for this transmission line."

The chief of the Nelson House Cree, Jerry Primrose, said that a new agreement with Manitoba Hydro is mitigating the damage caused by the Churchill River diversion project, that the issues are complex and that "not all the socioeconomic difficulties facing the Cree in northern Manitoba or other Canadian aboriginal people can be blamed on Manitoba Hydro or any other entity."

Primrose said that his community is "quite positive" about their future, that they are developing their economy and that lakeshore stabilization and cleanup are taking place. The hydro projects of the 1970s flooded about 700,000 acres in Manitoba, he indicated.

"We feel we are being exploited by environmental and religious organizations to promote their own causes, and that they are seeking to suppress economic opportunities for our people," Primrose said. "We are not taking a position for or against this transmission line."

Tordon, wind

Jim Clarquist, Stone Lake, testified that he has cut trees professionally along routes of 345KV lines elsewhere in the United States, and has sprayed the highly-toxic chemical Tordon along these rights of way to keep the vegetation down.

The Tordon has killed birds, rabbits and even cows along these lines, Clarquist said. "It gets into the water and kills everything in the water. If you live next to it (this line), I wouldn't drink the water."

Harold Blumer, a former Eau Claire Electric Cooperative board member, owns 200 acres of recreational land in the Exeland area in the path of the proposed 345KV line.

Blumer said that the new line will allow low-cost electric power, much of it from Canada, to enter Chicago area markets, where it can be sold for 12 cents or more per kilowatt-hour, as opposed to the six cents per kwh the companies are now getting throughout this region.

"Suddenly, everyone in northern Wisconsin, most of Minnesota and the Dakotas will be paying higher rates for their electricity," Blumer said. "We in Wisconsin will lose our surplus of power and low regional electric rates, because that power can be sold elsewhere for more money. This area's consumers and industries will lose their competitive edge.

"Alternative sources of electrical energy are available to serve our regional needs as well as Chicago's, yet the power companies would have you believe otherwise," Blumer continued. "The problem is that they would have to invest millions of dollars in new generating equipment, and incur debt and the risk associated with rapidly-changing technology.

"Rejecting this 345KV line proposal would force these companies to actually invest in the future," Blumer said. "But to allow them to build this line would set back technological development of power generation in this part of the country for many years. This line is more about windfall profits than it is about need."

Bob Dawson, a retired school administrator from Eau Claire, owns land in the Town of Bass Lake, Washburn County. When he lived in Eau Claire, his home was less than two blocks from a 345KV line there.

He said that he hiked and jogged along the line, and that on very humid or dry days, there was static electricity with a visible glow in the evening in high humidity.

"These towers are humongous," Dawson added. "In 1980, a big windstorm in the Eau Claire are annihilated 10 miles of that line The bigger the lines and towers, the more vulnerable they are to storm damage. The bigger they are, the more they are like lightning rods to winds."

Dawson noted that the final environmental impact statement prepared by PSC staff for the Arrowhead to Weston line notes that the northern route "would have the greatest likelihood of environmental impact. The commission must reject the project as proposed if any option would result in a cost effective feasible alternative."

Dawson said that more cooperation among electric companies and less hoarding would make more efficient use of electricity in different grids around the state and could solve some of the electricity problems.

An alternative route going from King to Weston along the existing 345 KV line through Eau Claire would have significantly less environmental impact, he added.

 

Hearings on proposed power line draw hundreds-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Testimony against line draws wide applause



Nancy Collisson
Spooner Advocate, Spooner WI
December 13, 2000


People arrived from as far away as Manitoba, Canada to speak or leave written testimony either for or against the proposed 345,000 volt power line that Allete and the Public Service Corporation of Wisconsin could construct over 250 miles in northwestern Wisconsin, if three members of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) ultimately decide that the line is necessary.

PSCW members, John Farrow, Ave Bie, and Joseph Mettner, did not attend the Hayward public hearings, however, according to PSCW spokesperson John Butson, Bie attended part of the Wausau hearing, and Farrow attended part of the hearing in Abbotsford.

Butson said that the members attended "because they had time." Controversy roiled recently while individuals as prominent as State Senator Robert Jauch expressed outrage that the members had not intended to attend any of the eight hearings that were offered in the area of the proposed route of the line.

After the last public hearing, which was held last Friday in Ladysmith, the PSCW will begin gathering information presented at technical hearings. According to Butson, they will probably not make a final decision until spring or summer.

 

Hayward PSCW hearing-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Following are transcripts of testimonials given at the Hayward PSCW hearing by Stone Lake resident Peggy Tierney, and by John Miswagon, chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation.


Testimony of John Miswagon

Speaking on behalf of the Pimicikamak Cree before Judge Janine Geske, who was gathering testimony for the PSC members of Wisconsin, was John Miswagon of Cross Lake, Manitoba, chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation.

Miswagon's description of the devastation to what he calls "Nitaskinan," or "Our Land," as a result of the flooding by Manitoba Hydro, follows: "Thank you for the opportunity to testify on a matter of great concern to Pimicikamak Cree Nation of Cross Lake, Manitoba. Our interest in critical regional energy and environmental issues is not self-serving. It is the outcome of our connectedness as indigenous peoples, to a highly sensitive boreal environment which we call Nitaskinan -- Our Land.

"Pimicikamak Cree Nation has found itself mix-characterized in the United States as a party in a dispute which should only be resolved in Canada.

"We assure Americans and other interested parties that we continue to take all steps in Canada to address the Canadian aspects of issues of concern to us. However, Pimicikamak Cree Nation's fundamental rights and interests are clearly involved in any proposed undertaking in the United States that carries with it the likelihood that Manitoba Hydro's electricity sales would increase, in the event the Arrow-head-Weston line is constructed.

"Minnesota Power, a wholesale trading partner of Manitoba Hydro, has denied to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board that the Arrowhead-Weston line would transmit bulk power from Manitoba.

"However, we draw your attention to a November 8, 2000, news article in which Richard James, Vice President for Corporate Planning at Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, told a utility reporter that: 'The line would directly link Wisconsin to power supplies in Canada and North Dakota, easing transmission bottlenecks to the west and south' (Study recommends steps for Wisconsin power deregulation, Reuters, San Francisco, November 8, 2000).

"The Wisconsin Public Service Commission's Final Environmental Impact Statement says: 'Potential generation sources identified for power imports from the west and north include coal-fired plants in the western U.S. and major hydroelectric facilities in Manitoba, Canada (Environmental Effects Related to Generation Sources Outside of Wisconsin, p. 125).

"We assert that there are impacts for the United States about the importation of Manitoba hydroelectric power that can -- and must -- only be addressed here, especially because the Midwest does not know enough about Canadian hydropower operations.

"Manitoba Hydro is owned and regulated by the government of Manitoba. It operates secretively, and refuses to release data, which -- if it were an American utility -- would be made fully available.

"We submit that no agency in the Midwest has access to all of the data on air emissions, reliability and socioeconomic and environmental impacts that would determine if Canadian imports are beneficial for the North American environment and for American customers.

"For example, the degree of impact of the Arrowhead-Weston line on airborne mercury is unknown. If, as most analysts suspect, the increased integration of Manitoba with the high-load areas of the central Midwest is enhanced by this proposed line, the region will experience higher levels of generation of Manitoba Hydro's two coal-fired units. By American standards, these old plants are very dirty. Both are located within 80 miles of the American border.

"On November 30, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously ordered a new docket in 2001, to investigate the environmental and socioeconomic cost benefits of all generation methods serving Minnesota. When implemented, this could provide a mechanism to obtain the data that Manitoba Hydro now keeps secret.

"Let me refer again briefly, to your Public Service Commission's Final Environ-mental Impact Statement: 'In Manitoba, construction and operation of massive dams and creation of large reservoirs for purposes of using hydropower to generate electricity have flooded and made inaccessible thousands of square miles of northern forests, lakes, rivers, and muskegs that are the native lands and social fabric of the Cree Nation. It is unknown whether any changes in operation of the dams or additional construction that would cause further impacts to these lands would occur if the Arrowhead-Weston Transmission Project is approved and built.

"It should also be noted that these environmental effects would not be limited to approval of the proposed Arrowhead-Weston Transmission Project but would likely be similar with respect to development of any new transmission lines that would facilitate power transfers from the west and north into and across Wisconsin" (ibid., p. 126).

"We emphasize that for every Cree community along the Nelson River, rapidly fluctuating water levels, eroding shorelines, riverbanks and islands, and unstable ice and slush formations are the conditions we endure on a daily basis. The control structure that regulates the flow of water into the Nelson from Lake Winnipeg which is now a storage reservoir, is ten miles from our community. This wholesale destruction of our lakes, rivers, shorelines and wildlife habitat, and the undermining of our traditional economies and ways of life and even our lives has been called 'a moral and ecological catastrophe' by a 1999 Canadian church inquiry.

"Last fall, representatives of the Midwest's most prominent environmental organi-zations were so horrified by what they witnessed that one of them called Our Land 'an environmental sacrifice zone.' We emphasize to you that the environmental destruction happens each and every day, not only when the dams and reservoirs were built 23 years ago.

"Your Public Service Commission's Final Environmental Impact Statement also says: 'Wisconsin statutes require the Commission to consider the environmental impacts of a project, regardless of where they would occur. However, mitigation of such effects by any means other than rejecting the proposed project is outside of the Commission's jurisdiction' (ibid., p. 126).

"We must respectfully disagree with this conclusion. As citizens of Canada and as indigenous peoples, we recognize that American consumers of Canadian hydro-electric power do have choices.

"Before you authorize more power from Manitoba to flow through your state, you can request comprehensive information about its manufacture. You can bring your purchasing and moral powers to bear upon both the seller and the buyers, to meet American environmental and human rights standards. And following the lead of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, you could recommend an investigation of the environmental and socioeconomic cost benefits of Manitoba Hydro's generation.

"These actions could prevent your state from inadvertently contributing to the extinction of our people and our animals, and more destruction of our fragile lands, air and waters.

"We look forward to working with you as partners in making the decision that is in the best interests of all of us. We are willing to answer any questions you may have and to speak the truth as we know it.

"Thank you! Ekosani!"



Testimony of Peggy Tierney

The following is a transcript from the testimony given by Stone Lake resident Peg Tierney to former Wisconsin State Supreme Court Judge Jeanine Geske who accepted testimony on behalf of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin last Thursday in Hayward.

Tierney spoke in opposition to the proposed 345,000 volt transmission line that, if built, would be placed within 70 feet of her home. Her comments drew wide applause in the auditorium of the Lac Courte Oreilles Community College where the hearing was held.

Because Tierney makes references to the sources of her information, her testimony is presented here, yet is to be regarded merely as a record of her opinion.

"They say that life is a journey. But the value of a journey depends on its destination. For almost half my life, one destination has been my land in Northern Wisconsin. Teeming with mature trees that slope down to kiss the water's edge and filter the morning sun, it has offered me solace from the world. Where I am safe, where I am free. Or so I thought.

"Then came the letter -- the letter announcing that two private utilities wanted to build a power line across the face of northern Wisconsin. Not just any power line, but a 345,000-volt transmission line -- over the lakes, the farms, the streams, and through the woods -- and right through my property.

"Now, I'm just one person, with a small cabin on a few acres of land, on one small lake in Sawyer county. But, it's more than that. It's the story of my childhood dreams, and the corporate greed that threatens to shatter those dreams. It's my story -- but it could be anyone's. I'd like to tell it to you now.

"For many of us, a grandparent is our favorite person. I loved my grandma Ste-vens for she was a survivor. Life had not been kind to her -- she lost everything in the depression -- only to get it back and then lose her husband and son.

"She taught me that when life knocks you down, you get back up, for one's character is built by struggle, not ease.

"Grandma had a lake home in Minnesota, and I would relish our time together. In the mornings, I'd scamper after her down to the dam to watch her fish from an old cane pole and, in the evenings, I'd settle down in a worn rocking chair that she said was her mother's mother's, and read Gone With the Wind.

"I marveled at Scarlett's strength and determination, how, when she needed answers to life's difficult questions, she always headed back to Tara. For "land is where you get your strength -- land is the only thing that matters, Katie Scarlett," her father said. That's when I knew. That someday I would have my own Tara -- my own land -- my private place to rest, reflect, and restore.

"My childhood dream was put on hold while I made my way in the world.

"One cold morning, eighteen years ago, my father got up, put on his postal uniform, and fell down. A massive aneurysm burst over and over again in his brain -- erasing all memory and forever condemning him to the Veteran's Home. He was 52.

"A month later, Grandma died. Faced with a deep loss, my own mortality, and the realization that dreams on hold may become dreams never furfilled, I set out looking for my Tara.

"I discovered a simple cabin overlooking a small lake just a few miles south of Hayward.

"Money was tight, but the owner required little down, and offered financing. The cabin wasn't much back then, it was just a shell, but it was situated on one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

"As the years passed, I improved the cabin. Family and friends helped build a deck and steps down to the lake. The addition of running water washed away the day's labors. There was a grand old stove to warm my feet, and Grandma's rocker found a perfect home by the window. My childhood dream had come true.

"The letter came in the spring of 1999. I was encouraged to attend informational meetings and naturally, while I was scared, I was determined to do my part if this project was really necessary.

"The meeting was filled with utility representatives -- the speakers and brochures talked about the critical need for power in northwestern Wisconsin -- 'to keep the lights on,' they said -- and that the process for the transmission line would be fair and impartial -- its need and route to be decided by the 'PSCW' -- commissioners, I would later learn, who were appointed by the governor of Wisconsin, who was strongly in support of the line.

"The brochures said that the route would be selected to maintain a minimum of 300-foot clearances from residences and that landowners would receive fair and just compensation if their property had to be seized.

"I approached Mr. Lindholm of Minnesota Power, now Allete, to discuss my par-ticular situation.

"He pointed out that one of the proposed routes would fall less than 100 feet from my door. The existing 40-foot high, 69 kilovolt poles would be removed and replaced with 135- foot high double-circuit towers carrying 500,000 volts, over three times the height, four times the width and nine times the voltage of the existing line, requiring additional clearing of trees down toward the lake and exposure of these towers to every one of the hundreds of area residents.

"At this point, the story changed. Rather than purchase my property, he said they didn't have to unless it was within some 17 feet of the line -- that even though they wouldn't have enough room for the easement, they would squish the 135-foot towers in the space they had.

"He said that while they 'try' to keep 300-foot clearances, they 'didn't have to.' When I asked about how a particular route is selected -- for my area had alterna-tives that crossed the Lac Court Oreilles Reservation -- he said that they are re-quired by law to offer alternative routes, but that the one across the reservation was 'just for show' -- that they didn't intend to try and cross that because 'those Indians are like another country.'

"Now, granted, Mr. Lindholm is just an employee of Allete -- but given the recent situation in Duluth, I believe that he speaks for the president of Allete.

"Many of you are aware that Andrew Slade, the Education Director of the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, was recently asked to resign from his post because he wrote an opposition article, as a private citizen, on the proposed transmission line.

"Mr. Russell, board member of the Aquarium and the president of Allete, sent a letter to Mr. Slade's boss which says, 'It is impossible for me or any officer or employee of Allete to distance our remarks from those of Allete in any forum.'

"Therefore, I can only assume that Mr. Russell finds it perfectly acceptable for his corporation to publish, and his people to voice, deceptive information about the line in order to mislead the public about its actual ramifications.

"I realized then that this company would say or do anything to get this line built. At this informational meeting, there were landowners passing out flyers about the line -- landowners like you and me -- landowners that would later form as SOUL.

"I decided to listen to what they had to say -- to read their research and conduct my own -- for, 'fool me once, shame on you. . .fool me twice, shame on me.' What I found was a pattern, a disturbing pattern of deception.

"First the line was for serving the needs of northwestern Wisconsin, then the story changed -- it was needed for grid reliability.

"In typical divide-and-conquer tactics, the utilities sent certain landowners letters stating they were removed from consideration when, indeed, they were still on the proposed routes. They sent erroneous letters of support from local busi-nesses, and when called on for their lies, they blamed it on a clerical error.

"One of the most disturbing things I found was that the Allete telecommunications subsidiary, MP Telecom, had formed an alliance with a media conglomerate, Murphy McGinnis, who, just a few months before the power line announcement, had made a substantial purchase of nearly all the major weekly newspapers along the proposed route. The budget proposal for the line included millions of dollars allocated for 'communication,' resulting in excess fiber-optic cable that could be used and leased for Internet access.

"Coincidence?

"You be the judge. I wondered what the real purpose of this line was. A press release, issued by MP Telecom, cleared up some of my questions: 'Murphy McGinnis Interactive, a subsidiary of Murphy McGinnis Media, and MP Telecom, a Minnesota Power company, have formed an alliance to provide residential Internet access to northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.

"'MP Telecom will provide the fiber-optic network, a state-of-the-art fiber-optic telecommunications 'super highway,' and is one of several initiatives on which MP Telecom is embarking to position itself as one of the premier telecommunications providers in the region.

"'Murphy McGinnis Internet includes web sites for all 14 newspapers in their Up North Newspaper Network (which include those in Superior, Ashland, Spooner, Hayward, Phillips and Park Falls, Wisconsin.)'

"In effect, this says that the company that owns the newspapers along the line has a vested interest in the line, and will, by proxy, along with the utilities, use the power of eminent domain to take private land for their own profitable telecommu-nications enterprise.

"A review of Allete's 1999 Annual Report showed that they are not quite as com-mitted to serving the area's energy needs as one would believe. "Since 1997, Allete's net income from energy services has actually declined, due mostly to 'a lack of demand in the region's power market.' Yet, their profit from non-energy sectors, realized primarily from their aggressive purchases of auto auctions in Canada, has increased over 300 percent.

"Today Allete derives less than 40 percent of their profit from the energy sector.

"Much has been said about the alternative technologies available today and in the future, that could render this line obsolete by the time its construction is complete in 2004.

"When I bought my land 18 years ago, with its 69-kilovolt easement, I thought these small poles would soon be gone.

"Surely there would be progress. They would get smaller, go underground or be eliminated all together.

"Instead it's evolution in reverse. If the computer industry were following the electric industry's pattern of research and development over the past few years, my laptop would be the size of a city block by now.

"I wondered why gas-fired generation, in small industrial parks, at the point of need in southeastern Wisconsin, wouldn't be a high priority in the Governor's plan to provide for Wisconsin's key energy needs rather than the advocating of the wholesale destruction of 4,200 acres of land.

"Recently, several proposals for new generation have been brought forward by a number of providers. The Environmental Analysis of the Strategic Energy Assess-ment, or SEA, an excellent document published by the staff of the PSCW, addressed this issue: 'Increased public concern about health impacts of pollutants and the EPA's new rules for emissions discourages the construction of coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas fired plants, renewable energy sources and more efficient land use technologies. [However,] due to existing ozone problems in southeastern Wisconsin, the siting of new power plants there could limit the development of other industries that emit air pollutants.'

"What this says to me is that it's okay for Canada, Minnesota, North Dakota, and northwestern Wisconsin to pollute their environment to provide energy to southeastern Wisconsin so that it can continue to attract business that will pollute the environment.

"The utilities have stressed that the transmission line will have minimal envi-ronmental impact because it will primarily follow existing right-of-ways. However, this too is not an accurate statement.

"Based on the utilities' own proposal in the CPCN, the worst case scenario requires that 4,000 out of 4,200 acres will be new right-of-way. That's a whopping 95 per-cent.

"In the best case, the line will require 2,700 acres of new right-of-way, or 67 percent. In addition, the existing right-of-ways house smaller, much lower voltage structures, in easements that were never meant to support 135 to 185 foot towers -- and will require significant clearing and wildlife displacement.

"Again, the SEA instructs: 'If more power plants were built in Wisconsin, there could be less need for high-voltage transmission lines. In general, power lines impinge directly on more people and they negatively impact biodiversity because of their potential for affecting many more acres of land.

"'Transmission line rebuilds and upgrades generally create fewer environmental effects than building new right-of-way. The exceptions to this would be when the rebuilt line much larger than the existing line or when the existing line was poorly routed.'

"Despite the PSCW's stance, I have not found any evidence that the utilities have conducted a careful review of existing right-of-ways to determine if they are even acceptable to house this significant upgrade.

"Finally, in many ways this debate has degenerated into mud-slinging designed to intimidate the other side.

"On one of the newspaper web sites, owned and run by Murphy McGinnis, a forum has been going on for several months. The 'pro-liners' as the utility employees and shareholders are referred to, call the opponents of the line, 'pro-whiners.'

"A recent post from an Allete shareholder (and, by implication, Mr. Russell) epitomizes the ridiculousness of the debate: 'The anti-line people are some of the most selfish, self-centered people I have ever met. They are only interested in themselves and their property. They have little, if any, willingness to understand that the public good requires some level of sacrifice by us all"

"Some level of sacrifice by us all? Right, but you go first!

"It sounds like what we say to justify sending some other family's 19-year-old boy into battle. Let's examine the sacrifices all are being asked to make.

"First, regarding landowner compensation, in an article in the Superior Telegram, Dave Valine of the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation is quoted as saying: 'We give the best and highest offer [to property owners] we can make. Any decrease in value affecting property and structures adjoining a lines right of way is included in settlements with landowners. We pay not only for the easement but also for a decrease in the value for the rest of the property if an appraisal shows it.' "Now, you don't have to be a rocket scientist, or conduct a major research survey, to realize that if you put a 345,000-volt transmission line with 135-foot steel towers within 300 feet of someone's home in a non-urban setting that its value will decline.

"Studies show property devaluation of up to 53 percent in recreational areas, and many realtors will attest to the fact that many properties may not sell at all.

"Also, while the utilities claim there's no proof that hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity is harmful, isn't that what they said about radon, asbestos and tobacco?

"Parents who have watched their children and animals get sick would disagree, so would farmers who have to ground everything to avoid static charge explosions, and insurance companies who deny coverage due to the risk. Yet, where is the slush fund from which Mr. Valine will draw to honor his promise to provide fair and just landowner compensation?

"The utility budget proposal has earmarked only 6.5 percent of the total budget for landowner compensation in Wisconsin. That's a little over $9 million of the total $150 to $200 million budget. Their own estimates indicate that over 400 residences and buildings fall within 300 feet of the line and thousands within 1,000 feet of the line.

"Do the math.

"Let's just say, to be fair, that Mr.Valine plans to honor his promise and pay affected landowners half the value of their property based on the average market value of a home of Wisconsin of $136,000. That would require $27 million alone. They're already $18 million short, and haven't even spent one nickel on the remaining 4,000 acres necessary for this line. And note, the term 'condemnation' is a misnomer -- it doesn't mean the utilities have to purchase the entire parcel, they can place this line within 17 feet of a family's home and condemn them to live under it, and pay taxes on it, forever.

"Again, these extravagant public statements simply do not hold water.

"In my case, my property is valued at roughly 200,000. The right-of-way will be expanded to 120 by 800 feet, resulting in a budgeted one-time payment to me of roughly $6,000.

"All trees will be cleared to my doorstep, and the line will sit approximately 70 feet from my home and 200 feet from the lake. The local property assessor has stated publicly that all property within 1/2 mile of the line will be devalued by up to 50 percent.

"In addition, we are still to pay taxes on this property. I will also be unable to build on the adjacent developable lot. I assess my personal loss to be in the neighborhood of $200-$300,000 in year 2000 dollars.

"However, the companies that will provide the towers and equipment are certainly being paid fair market value for their products and services. There is no sacrifice there. The union workers will be paid union wages to build the line. There is no sacrifice there. (In fact, it only seems fair to me, as a landowner, that if eminent domain is used to grab our land for pennies on the dollar, perhaps conscription or some form of draft should be used to get the construction workers for the line, and the materials should be demanded at cost.

"If that were the case, I doubt the business interests involved would be as enthusiastic about the line.) The utility attorneys and employees will still make a fair wage. There is no sacrifice there.

"The shareholders will profit from wheeling, and all the ancillary telecommunications benefits that the fiber will offer. In fact, the people that are asking us to make a sacrifice are strangely silent when it comes to our participation in the profits. I would feel a little better about sharing in the downside, if I could participate in the upside.

"Certainly, if sacrifice were indeed forthcoming by all, the employees and shareholders would each take a loss equivalent to what they are asking me and others to take -- the union employees would work for pennies on the dollar, the towers would be donated at cost for the good of all, and every one in this room would willingly sign up to have one of these, up to l85-foot, towers constructed in their own back yard.

'In the end, I'd like to say to the utilities that if you had spent half the energy, time and resources, over the past decade, in preparing for your company's future in the face of deregulation as you have battling landowners, this last year, over this senseless line, we wouldn't be here today.

"Surely, we can do better than this. I'd like to suggest we go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan -- one drafted with the people, and for the people -- not for yourselves at the expense of the people.

"Thank you."

 


Goofs galore follow power line column
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Michael D. Simonson
Duluth News Tribune
December 22, 2000


Note: The following was written by Mike Simonson for his regular "Media Watch" column for the January edition of "Your Life" magazine. The ownership of the magazine declined to publish it and Simonson sent it to us.

If the news media can't report on itself, then it doesn't have any right to report on anyone else. Simple as that. When we goof up, when we do something of community interest, when we make changes, we should be willing to report on, examine and even scold within our little fraternity. Otherwise, what right do we have to air reports of people bashing lawyers, politicians and corporations? Like say, taking Minnesota Power to task? Hang on. It's time for both.

Minnesota Power, the former MP&L, used to send a feeling of warmth and light on a dark winter day. It has been a comfortable, familiar institution of our north country. In September, the corporation which used a smiling, helpful Reddy Kilowatt as its representative, became a chilly, generic company. Their new name is "Allete" -- the most presumptuous name since, well, Northern States Power Company renamed itself "Xcel Energy."

Allete was supposed to be less parochial, more modern I suppose, and more attractive to Wall Street. That's an interesting social statement. Yet, since September, Wall Street has treated Allete like a yo-yo, with its stock going up and down. She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me . . .

Allete's CEO Ed "Muscles" Russell has taken these last few months to make some interesting social statements of his own. He quit the United Way board over the Boy Scout brouhaha. The board cut funding to the Scouts for not allowing gays to take part. United Way says that's discrimination and they don't give money to groups that decide some people are welcome and others are not. Russell says it's a bad decision, the Boy Scouts are a great American institution.

So he walked.

About the same time, as Russell sipped his morning coffee in his sleeveless muscle shirt, he turned the Duluth News Tribune's pages from the news section to the editorial page, and knew it was once again time for action. He read Andrew Slade's monthly column, which Sept. 10 urged people to conserve energy so things like the proposed Duluth to Wausau transmission line wouldn't have to be built. There were mentions of this power line cutting a swath through the pristine north woods, and generally things that honked off a good Alletist.

Allete pulled its name from an exhibit at the new Duluth Great Lakes Aquarium, called the column factually flawed, and after eight years as the aquarium's environmental education staffer, Slade resigned effective Oct. 4. Two aquarium board members also called it quits, in protest of pressure put on Slade to leave.

Is this the work of "Muscles" Russell? No one involved will say. In fact, no one even reported this story until the alternative newspapers "The Northland Reader" and the "Ripsaw" ran stories. The aquarium won't comment. Russell, crumpling up an empty bag of cement mix, presumably not used for someone's shoes, says he didn't do it. And Slade's goodbye care package wouldn't let him talk about it. It seems like this would be the best time for an educator to speak out.

Finally, the Duluth News Tribune ran a short story Oct. 14, buried inside its local section, page 7C, that Slade was gone and Allete says it had nothing to do with it. Pretty poor reporting, pretty poor response since Slade is their columnist and the info ran in their newspaper.

The United Way and Slade stories have been the hottest topics of the day, excepting an occasional pregnant chad or dimple. Here we have important social institutions taking stands on issues such as free speech, association, prejudice, discrimination, corporate influence, the rights of individuals and the rights of private groups and companies.

This is a news editor's dream. Yet the Trib tripped, big time. Although the United Way/Boy Scouts story got lots of coverage, the Slade/Fish Tank/Allete/Muscles story with much the same controversy, did not. At least not until Thursday, Nov. 16, when Russell ran his much anticipated opinion piece taking issue with Slade's column. Then Slade replied in a Tuesday, Nov. 21 column.

Finally, on Nov. 19, in a Sunday "Our View" editorial, we heard from the editorial board. That's two months and nine days after Slade's original column hit the fan.

That's a pretty lousy response time. The editorial was measured, matter-of-fact, and made no bones about it: Slade's opinion shouldn't have cost him his job, and Russell overreacted. The fear of the corporate headlock coming down on people for criticizing it should not be the American way. Dispute, discuss, but don't do back alley muggings to get your way.

You think? For crying out loud, regardless what side you take on the Boy Scout/United Way issue, Russell's decision to quit the United Way board was a bad one. If he wants to fight for the Scouts, he can't do it off the board, unless he transforms back into "Muscles".

And pressuring the aquarium by having Allete's name removed from an aquarium display lays waste to all of the millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time Minnesota Power invested in this noble waterfront project. Minnesota Power went from community benefactor to big hairy troll.

The solution is simple. Re-hire Slade. Give "Muscles" some sensitivity training. How about the kind where he closes his eyes and falls backwards, trusting Slade to catch him? Then, dump Allete as a name. Get Reddy Kilowatt and his familiar Minnesota Nice manner back on board.

As for the Boy Scouts/United Way thing, it's been a good catalyst for community discourse on making a stand, how we treat our fellow human beings, and raising our kids. Maybe they should go ahead and change their name to Straight Scouts.


Simonson is a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio's Superior Bureau.

 

 

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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