Speakers blast proposed power line as destructive
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
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."
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
Jarvis added that "Our children would be exposed to the electromagnetic
poisoning almost constantly as they play ball games at the Stone Lake
"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
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."
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
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."
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"'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
"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
"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