Pages: Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2001.
2000: Jan.-May,
June-July, Aug.- Oct., Nov.-Dec.. 1999
Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2000, Apr.-July, Jan.-Mar., 1999

power lines

Page Contents:

Proposed MN-WI transmission lines -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Updates: 2000

June - July

Photos of SOUL Rally Against The Transmission Line in Duluth, Aug. 28, 2000



Power Line Threatens Wisconsin's Air and Water
Environmental impact statement fails to address up-wind pollution sources

Keith Reopelle, Program Director
The Defender, vol 30, no.3 June 2000

The much anticipated Duluth-to-Wausau transmission line draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) has been written and released by the staff at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The document is two volumes and more than 500 pages long. This is the 345 kilovolt, 250 mile transmission line proposed to be built by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation of Green Bay and Minnesota Power of Duluth.

We feel that one of the greatest shortcomings of the DEIS document is the lack of any analysis of impacts from additional generation to the north and west of Wisconsin resulting from this line. While the electricity carried on the proposed line will most likely come from a number of individual sources, some portion of it is bound to come from an increase in the electricity generated from existing coal plants. Minnesota, like Wisconsin, generates about 70% of its electricity from coal plants. These often old and inefficient coal plants are exempt from modern power plant pollution standards through a loophole in the Clean Air Act, despite being by far the largest point sources of air pollutants in the nation (and in Wisconsin). The Environmental Decade plans to analyze the impact on Wisconsin from increased releases of emissions which cause acid rain, mercury contamination, smog and global warming. This will be the major focus of the Decade's intervention in this proceeding, as local citizens are well organized under a group named Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) , and funded by the Public Service Commission to analyze the direct physical environmental impacts of the line.

Besides the additional upwind coal-genration, utilities and their industrial customers alike are hopeful that the line will bring cheap hydro-electric power from Canada.

Such sales from [sic] utilities that own the hydro-electric dams would only fuel the devastation of the Cree Indians whose home lands were flooded by these immense hydro-electric projects. "Manitoba Hydro destroyed my livelihood of fishing, hunting and trapping," said Ernest Monias, an Information Officer with the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake Manitoba. "It's destroyed our recreation - swimming, boating, waterskiing -- that's all shot to hell. The loss of our environment -- that's affected me; the wildlife is a part of me. It's been devastating, " Monias added. "We'd like people to be aware of where their power is coming from and at what cost."

The draft EIS focuses on three general areas:
  1. The Need for the Duluth-Wausau Line
    Wisconsin currently imports about 15 percent of its electricity. According to the DEIS, if we continue to import 15 percent, we would need at least an additional 360 megawatts of transfer capacity (infrastructure to deliver that much electricity over the transmission grid). The proposed Duluth-Wausau line, however, would provide 3000 MWs of transfer capacity -- far more than Wisconsin alone could conceivably need. Developers are also currently pursuing 1500 MW of generation from new power plants.

  2. Cost
    A DEIS analysis based on the applicants' estimated cost of approximately $135 million finds that the transmission line would cost ratepayers less than any of three other options: natural gas power plant (about $190 million), wind generation (about $240 million) and whole tree biomass ($390 million). The DEIS did not require an integrated approach that includes a package of generation alternatives and more limited transmission improvements and acknowledged that such an integrated approach could be less expensive than the proposed Duluth-Wausau line. The DEIS also, however, states that "a mechanism for implementing such an approach no longer exists." So despite its low cost, an integrated approach is supposedly beyond the ability of the PSC to require.

  3. Environmental Impacts
    Environmental impacts were examined for 8 different alternative transmission routes, originating from 4 points (2 alternative routes for each) in Minnesota. The environmental analysis evaluates these 8 transmission line options based on 11 factors:

      land cover, county forest acreage, state properties, state trails, Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI), National Scenic Trails, National Scenic Riverways, Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) communities, Outstanding and Exceptional Resource Waters (OERW), road densities and population densities.
    The staff's DEIS analysis finds that among the eight transmission options examined, one of the two major proposed routes for Duluth to Wausau ranks the highest in terms of susceptibility to environmental impact for nine of the eleven factors. This is the northern-most route and has the most public forest acres, river crossings, outstanding resource waters, trails, etc. The alternative which ranked lowest in terms of susceptibility ot environmental impacts (i.e. would have the least impact) is one that would run from approximately just east of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, through Eau Claire and on to Wausau. This is not an alternative which is being proposed by the utilities.


Project evokes the past

Today's protests over planned power lines echo infamous conflicts 22 years ago

Steve Kuchera
Duluth [MN] News-Tribune
18 June 2000

Twenty-two years ago, property owners rallied to stop the construction of a high-voltage transmission line through central Minnesota. That much-publicized, often volatile and occasionally violent conflict saw Gov. Rudy Perpich sending in state troopers to protect construction workers and project opponents launching a campaign of guerrilla warfare -- toppling towers, shooting insulators and the wire itself.

The dispute attracted international attention, inspired a made-for-television movie and prompted an unknown Carleton College political science professor named Paul Wellstone to co-author a book on the controversy.

Some of the people involved with the protests against the CU Line say it illustrates what could happen if Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. receive permission to build the Arrowhead-Weston line between Duluth and Wausau, Wis.

"We're going to go through this again," says George Crocker, who as a leader in GASP (General Assembly to Stop the Power Lines) actively opposed the CU Line and, as executive director of the North American Water Office, opposes the Arrowhead-Weston project. "This line has all the markings of a project that is as fraught, if not more fraught, with contention as the CU project," Crocker said. "I do not think people are going to lay down and take it."

There are differences between the two lines. The 250-mile-long, 375-kilovolt, alternating current Arrowhead-Weston Line would be part of a national network of transmission lines, open to the use of any marketer buying or selling electricity. The 427-mile-long, 400-kilovolt, direct current CU Line brings electricity from a coal-fired power plant in Underwood, N.D., to a substation in Delano, Minn., for redistribution to 29 cooperatives across the state.

But the reasons for opposing the two projects are the same -- questions over need and alternatives, concern over possible impacts to health, the environment and property values, and anger over the fact utilities can condemn the land they need.

A bad first impression

The CU Line was the most contentious project Minnesota Environmental Quality Board planner Larry Hartman has seen in 25 years of regulating power plants, power lines and pipelines. The MEQB project manager on the CU project, he recently speculated why the project was so controversial.

"It was a combination of factors," he said. "Some of the people involved, perhaps more than anything else, made the biggest difference. In part it might have been the way the utilities approached the project with the landowners. First impressions are important."

In March 1978, Charles Anderson, then president of Cooperative Power Association (which built the CU Line with United Power Association), admitted the utilities could have worked more with property owners before construction began in late 1977, after the Minnesota Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow the line to proceed.

"We just didn't get out with landowners and talk about it enough," he told the press. "If we were to do it over again, we would spend much more time on public education about the project."

Whether meeting with the public could have defused the conflict, however, is questionable. Many had strong feelings that the line would interfere with irrigation equipment, would harm the environment, people's health, livestock, crops and property values.

The protest, which grew hottest in Grant, Pope and Stearns counties, later centered on the utilities' use of eminent domain to obtain easements from unwilling sellers.

"When it went across our land they didn't even ask," Tony Bartos of Lowery said. "They said `If you don't sign, we'll just condemn your land.' That pissed me off."

Escalating confrontations

Bartos was one of six protesters who, saying their actions symbolized what was happening to their rights, smeared themselves with pig manure and asked to be arrested in February 1978 while the line was under construction.

The incident was just one of many confrontations along the Minnesota segment of the line. Protesters rode horses in front of surveyors to block their view. Riding snowmobiles and a manure spreader they chased surveyors off farms.

"We went out in the fields and stopped them wherever we could," said protest leader Matt Woida, of Sauk Centre. The line crosses his farm about 1/2-mile from his house.

In early 1978 Stearns County Sheriff James Ellering asked survey crews to leave because his deputies couldn't control the protesters. Gov. Rudy Perpich sent 200 state troopers into the area to protect workers on the line. The troopers remained into March.

At times protesters treated the troopers to cookies. At other times troopers used Mace to disperse protesters; farmers used anhydrous ammonia to disperse the troopers. In March 1978 someone shot at a power line security guard sitting in a truck. The man was hit by flying glass. Crocker, who advocated non-violent resistance to the CU Line, said media coverage changed after that.

`"From that point on it wasn't a case of what the power companies were doing, but of what these people had done to that security truck and the guard sitting in it," he said. "One of most important lessons that the opposition to the Arrowhead-Weston line needs to learn is that when violence is perpetrated against people, it is no longer an issue of what the power company is doing to you," he said. "So don't hurt people."

Mounting publicity

Conflict and publicity didn't end when electricity began flowing through the CU Line on Oct. 17, 1978. In November 1978 the Soviet news agency Tass, in what appeared to be a counterattack on President Jimmy Carter's human rights campaign, covered the trespassing trial of 19 power line protesters, including folk singer Dean Feed. All 19 were acquitted.

In 1980, Hollywood produced "OHMS," a made-for-TV movie about a farmer and activist battling a power company's plans to put an electrical line across farmland. Ohm is a unit for measuring resistance in an electrical circuit.

Meanwhile, in the farmland of central Minnesota, resistance to the CU Line continued. Insulators and the line were shot. By March 1981, 15 towers had been toppled. The guerrilla warfare ended only when it became a federal offense to vandalize the line and FBI agents began showing up and asking questions.

Questionable side effects

While the vandalism ended, debate over the line's impact on health and livestock continued. Woida said he has had more problems with cows aborting or not breeding since the line was built.

The state studied the impact of the line on livestock, comparing the general health, rate of production and number of abortions in herds near the line to those several miles away.

"No differences were found," said John Hynes, the MEQB permit compliance manager on the project.

Other studies found that the line did produce ions (electrically charge atoms) and electrical fields measurable at ground level. But no one could prove that the fields and ions caused health problems. In 1982 a scientific panel voted that it couldn't find any significant health risks from the line.

"After that the issue went away for us," said Will Kaul, vice president of transmission for Great River Energy (formed when CPA and UPA merged). "That doesn't mean people accepted it. I think a lot of people out there believe now what they believed 20 years ago. I think they felt that they had exhausted all the remedies they knew of."

Woida's view of the CU Line certainly hasn't changed in 22 years. "Not a bit," he said. "They didn't need it. It's just a money racket. That's all it is."

Bartos no longer lives on the farm he fought to protect in 1978. During the 1980s his farm and construction business fell on hard times. He moved three miles away and began a fish farm.

He says health concerns over the line didn't influence his move, although "I still think it's harmful. I would rather live over here than over there," he said. "If a guy is a few miles away from the line he knows for damn sure it won't affect him. But if things hadn't gone bad I would probably still be there."

"I wish they wouldn't make any more lines," Bartos said. "But I don't know what the hell the answer is. I guess we have to keep growing and get more energy. I never figured that we needed this one, but apparently maybe we did because they have it going mostly at capacity."

Crocker, however, sees plans to build more lines as an attempt by utilities to ensure the survival of large, traditional power plants at the expense of conservation and the development of renewable source of energy.

"Renewable sources of power have languished because power companies haven't seen it to their advantage to invest in them," he said.


We're being given the line on power project


Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle
June 21, 2000

Residents of Wisconsin's western frontier are fighting to keep a 345-kilovolt transmission line, called the Arrowhead-Weston Project, from going through their yards, cottages and farms. The 250-mile line will stretch from Duluth-Superior to Wausau, where it will connect with the existing power grid. It will damage 4,500 acres of private land, sensitive wetlands, vacation property and farmland.

Power companies have been telling us the power is "needed" in northern Wisconsin, which is growing in population. Actually, the electricity will be carried from a Manitoba dam through Duluth-Superior for further delivery to the lucrative Illinois market. This line should be called the Manitoba/Duluth-Superior/Illinois Extension Cord. Even if a case could be made for running this power line from one place to another, some questionable moves make me wonder what they aren't telling us.

First, this line was put on a fast track both in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota Power applied for a permit of exemption, that is, to avoid an environmental impact statement. Was it afraid of what that statement would show? This is the largest transmission line to be built in Wisconsin in the last 30 years, yet when utilities proposed the project, they wanted to rush through public hearings and begin construction by March 2000. What's the big rush?

Second, as reported by Wisconsin Public Radio on June 14, information filed with the state Public Service Commission by utilities is "confidential." To see the information, one has to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which would then prevent that person from sharing it with his group members or using it to make a case. This is going in for review, but it is a roadblock for opponents of the Arrowhead-Weston Project now.

Third, in the draft environmental impact statement, the PSC has estimated the use of gas-fired combustion turbines constructed where they're needed would cost about the same as the Arrowhead-Weston line, based on today's prices.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy has stated that within the next few years, as early as 2003, hydrogen fuel cells and gas-fired microturbines will change the way we approach energy delivery. Customers will be able to move from the utility's meter to these less expensive and environmentally sound methods of energy production. Long transmission lines will become obsolete.

Utilities are not happy with this twist of fate. Down go their billings.

The PSC received more than 10,000 letters opposing the line, in spite of a big push by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. exhorting business customers to write to the PSC and tell them how much we need this line for the future, blah, blah, blah. Eight of the eleven counties that are impacted by this line have passed resolutions against it.

At the recent WPS annual meeting, CEO Larry Weyers assured stockholders the line would follow an environmentally sound route, yet it will affect 11,500 landowners who will be "asked" to give up a 150 foot right of way. Look at your own lot and imagine how that might cramp your style. Add to this ugly picture the idea of getting to rural areas for repairs to downed lines in the middle of wetlands normally accessible only in winter.


Power line could affect farmland values

Associated Press
Duluth News Tribune
26 June 2000

WAUSAU, Wis. -- A proposed power line from Minnesota to Rothschild could hurt farmland in all counties it travels through, a state agency says.

An agricultural impact statement released by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said construction of the line could compact soil, force farmers to change planting patterns to avoid support structures and drive down property values.

"This has the potential to put dairies in this area in Marathon County out of business," said Susan Heckendorf, who, with her husband, Robert, owns a dairy farm in the town of Halsey. Both are members of the grassroots organization Save Our Unique Lands.

Wisconsin Public Service and Minnesota Power have jointly proposed the power line to increase electrical reliability in the state. The 250-mile, 345-kilovolt line would run from near Duluth to Rothschild.

The 100-page impact report released this month said the compacting of soil through construction of the transmission line, reducing pore space between soil particles, would reduce crop yields.

Transmission poles also could become obstacles and force farmers to change cropping patterns, the report said. It said contact with the lines could cause severe injury or death. Stray voltage is unlikely, the report said, except in areas where a line from a home connects with the main line and near the 115-kilovolt line.

The line could cause the value of residential and agricultural property to drop 10 percent, the report said, with smaller properties more likely to be affected.

Impact can be lessened by following fence lines or hedge rows, but the ultimate routing will be up to the Public Service Commission, said Dave Valine, a Wisconsin Public Service supervisor.

Susan Hockendorff said the line also could affect cows and grazing land. "There is going to be no small impact coming through any dairy farm," she said. "When they bring it through an ag area they're bringing it right through our business."



Power companies call it Power Up, Wisconsin.
It should really be called Up Yours, Wisconsin

Criticized impact statement may be revised

July 6, 2000

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Opponents of a proposed electrical transmission line in northwestern Wisconsin have assurances from state officials that an environmental impact statement will be reviewed and possibly rewritten. A preliminary draft of the statement that environmentalists have criticized "is just that, a draft," Public Service Commission spokesman Jeff Butson said. "It is a document that changes."

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay and Minnesota Power Corp. of Duluth, Minn., parent of Superior Water Light & Power Co., want to build a 250-mile, 345-kilovolt power line from a substation near Duluth to a substation at Weston near Wausau. The state needs the current that the line would provide, the utilities say.

Opponents say the line's transmission towers would be unsightly and would reduce neighboring property values. On the final day for the commission to accept public comment on the statement, Wisconsin's Environmental Decade Inc. argued Wednesday that the line would increase the use of coal-burning generators, causing more smog, mercury pollution and acid rain.

Decade spokesman Keith Reopelle said the project's proponents have "cooked the numbers in their application to favor the line over less costly and environmentally friendlier options like energy efficiency." The environmental impact statement fails to consider the options, he said.

Wisconsin Public Service Corp. spokesman Jim Streed said comments on alternatives will be available during hearings on the statement later this year.

A 500-page study report by the commission in May, analyzing several variations for the line's route, said one from near Duluth to Weston via Tripoli ranked the highest in environmental impact. The route would affect county forests, recreation trails and rivers, it said.

A route that would parallel an existing high-capacity line from King, Minn., through Eau Claire would damage natural resources less but would be visible in urban areas, it said. That route was not on the list of paths proposed by the utilities.

The Citizens Utility Board, a customer-advocacy group, asked the commission in May to postpone its consideration of the application, saying the documents lacked a required engineering plan.

An agricultural impact statement in June by the state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection said the construction could force farmers to change planting patterns.

Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), a northern Wisconsin organization of landowners, said last week the commission is biased in favor of the project and that the application should be considered by another agency.


PSC refuses to require new utility application for power line project

Bobby Mercado
The Daily Globe [Ironwood MI]
July 10, 2000, p11

MADISON, Wis. -"Predictable," said Richard Steffen, a retired electrical engineer and secretary of a northern Wisconsin group called SOUL, when the Public Service Commission Thursday refused to require a new utility application for a major power line proposed across northern Wisconsin.

Steffen was among several members of Save Our Unique Lands which is asking the commission to deny the utilities' application to construct a 345-kilovolt transmission line from Wausau to Duluth. Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Minnesota Power claim the $125 million to $175 million line is necessary to keep up with electrical demands.

"Customers expect electricity to be there when it's needed, so we have to make sure the delivery system can fulfill that expectation," said Patrick Schrickel, president and chief operating of officer of the Wisconsin Public Service in a press release.

The issue before the commission Thursday was whether an engineering study was submitted to the Department of Natural Resources 60 days before the application was filed. SOUL representatives have taken issue with the department's claim that an appropriate study was filed.

The Citizens Utility Board filed a complaint with the commission arguing the utilities had not handed in the engineering plan to the DNR on time. At its regular Thursday open meeting, the commission rejected CUB's request, citing a letter from the DNR which indicated it was satisfied that the utilities had met all legal requirements regarding the engineering study.

Rep. Marty Reynolds, D-Ladysmith, took issue with the commission's ruling.

"It is not the job of the DNR to assimilate information and create an engineering plan," said Reynolds, who attended Thursday's meeting.

Ed Garvey, a Madison attorney representing SOUL, questioned the need for the power line.

"I have seen nothing to indicate that they need this power Garvey said following the meeting.

Reynolds said the power line approval process has been handled improperly.

"The process did not work for the people of the state of Wisconsin today Reynolds said. "It worked for the corporations, but not for the people."

A PSC spokesperson said the commissioners made the only decision they could. "We do not have the authority to make that decision, if the DNR is satisfied then we do not have the authority on this matter to make that decision,"said Annemarie Newman.

PSC responsible for power line decision
Some say commission is biased

By Cathy Peterson
The Bee, Phillips [WI], 19 July 2000

(Editor1s note: This is part of the Sawyer County Record1s continuing coverage of issues relating to the proposed construction of the Power Up Wisconsin power line running through northwestern Wisconsin.)

Hundreds are expected to testify during the upcoming public and technical hearings on the proposed Arrowhead-to-Weston transmission line.

This joint venture of the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Minnesota Power to build a 250-mile, 345-kilovolt electric power line would impact 11 northern Wisconsin counties. At the end of the hearings, however, just the three people comprising the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin will decide if the $125 to $175 million power line will be built. Although the PSC is set up as an independent regulatory agency, those opposing the power line question the PSC1s impartiality, and have filed a motion with the PSC asking it to recuse itself from making any decision on the power line.

The PSC commissioners were not available for comment since they are not permitted to talk to the public about the issue, according to Sandy Paske, a PSC administrative assistant. She explained that the commissioners are prohibited from commenting on any open, contested case. In making their final decision, the commissioners will be relying heavily on the work of the PSC staff. Many of the staff members, including Neil Michek, case coordinator, Jeff Butson, media contact, Kathy Zuelsdorff, environmental coordinator, and others, have been involved in the project Docket Number 05-CE-113, commonly known as "Power Up Wisconsin."

In an official publication explaining who they are and what they do, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) describes itself as an independent regulatory agency dedicated to serving the public interest. The agency is responsible for the regulation of Wisconsin public utilities, including those owned by municipalities. The PSC, which receives its authority from the state legislature, regulates such utilities as natural gas, telephone, water, combined water and sewer and electricity.

More than 1,300 utilities are under the agency1s jurisdiction and most must obtain PSC approval before instituting new rates, issuing stocks or bonds or undertaking major construction projects, including power plants, water wells or transmission lines.

Most of the 28 electric cooperatives with activities in the state are not under the jurisdiction of the PSC. Leroy Hanson, general manager of the Price Electric Cooperative, said cooperatives do not come under PSC jurisdiction because the cooperatives are consumer-controlled. He said each cooperative is governed by its own board of directors who are selected by the votes of the cooperative1s consumer-members.

The PSC staff includes auditors, consultants, engineers, rate analysts, attorneys, planners, research analysts, economists, consumer specialists, court reporters, and paraprofessional and clerical workers.

According to the anticipated schedule provided by the PSC in May, the commissioners decision is expected to be issued sometime after the end of the technical hearings in October. Public testimony will be taken at a series of hearings expected in September.

However, Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL), a grassroots organization formed to oppose the power line, has asked the three PSC commissioners to step aside from making the final decision on the project. On June 29, SOUL1s counsel, Garvey & Stoddard, filed a motion with the PSC the previous day requesting the commissioners recuse themselves from the case because of their bias and partiality toward the transmission line supporters.

Ed Garvey, a legal counsel for SOUL, stated in a press release that it is clear the commission had made its decision before the hearings began. He said the public deserves fairness.

The supporting brief for the motion to recuse the commissioners lists several reasons for the request. These include:

  • On April 15, 1999, when Wisconsin Public Service Corporation publicly announced its plans for the project, Governor Thompson was quoted in a WPS press release stating his support of the transmission line;
  • After the application to construct this project had been filed, Governor Thompson directed the construction of additional transmission lines in his State of the State Address. Mary Moser, Governor Thompson1s Northern representative, said the PSC has not made a decision and those who believe they have are making allegations based on personal opinions. She said the time for public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement ended on July 5 and public information meetings have been scheduled.
"Everything is being followed according to prescribed procedure, " she said. "All the comments I receive about the transmission line, whether by letter, telephone or e-mail, and all the newspaper articles which I read about this issue are being passed on to the Governor1s office."

(Cathy Peterson writes for the Phillips Bee, a member of the Up North Newspaper Network.)

Well-funded Environmental Groups Prepared
to Oppose Business Projects

Thanks to Linda Sturnot....

Pete Millard
Industry News Columns
Public Policy Journal, July 21, 2000

No matter how big or small the project, Wisconsin Electric Power Co. goes out of its way to keep environmental lobbyists informed of future plans and programs.

"The power of the (environmental lobbying community) is strong and growing, and one doesn't want to overlook the value of an endorsement or to avoid their opposition," says Mike John, a spokesman for Wisconsin Electric Power Co., the state's largest electricity utility and a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corp., Milwaukee.

"If they come out against one of our programs, it could be DOA (dead on arrival)," John says.

Environmental groups and allied activists are aggressively fighting the expansion of electricity transmission, power generation, transportation and other projects.

Highway projects are routinely opposed by environmental groups in favor of mass transit options that don't work or would be too costly, says a spokesman for the Wisconsin Road Builders Association.

While state utilities and business groups believe there is still a chance that the 250-mile, high-voltage Arrowhead transmission line will be built from Wausau to Duluth, Minn., an opposition group called SOUL considers the project all but dead.

Based in Wausau, SOUL -- an acronym for Save Our Unique Lands -- is allied with environmental groups and other activists to oppose the Arrowhead line. SOUL is confident the draft environmental impact statement from the state Public Service Commission is riddled with flaws.


Other eco-battlegrounds are unfolding in Wisconsin, where the environmental lobby has established a combative presence. Proposed water pollution regulations supported by most environmental groups could cost businesses, farmers and residents more than $2 billion, and still there are claims the state isn't doing nearly enough to protect lakes and rivers.

The nonpoint water pollution regulations are the most extensive environmental rules ever considered in Wisconsin, says a spokesman for the River Alliance of Wisconsin. The cost of implementing the clean water regulations is of no consequence, the spokesman says.

"There is never much room for compromise with them," says Bill Reid, a government affairs director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. "(Environmentalists) are slowly turning up the heat, but we will continue to fight. It's a tenuous situation because it only takes one to file a lawsuit."

Collectively, environmental groups that lobby the Legislature are better organized, have a higher level of funding and boast of more grass-roots power than ever before, says state Rep. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee).

Environmental groups are making life in the Democratic caucus more interesting, he adds.

"Sometimes, Democrats are put in an awkward position because we have environmental interests pitted against labor interests in the fight to maintain a balance of jobs and growth," he says.


Thanks to refinements in the environmental associations' computer databases, the groups are more sophisticated in mobilizing their membership and in raising money, says Steve Hiniker, executive director of the Citizen's Utility Board. CUB often joins the environmental lobby when opposing some energy projects.

"I would be very concerned at WMC (Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce) or any other business group that is traditionally at loggerheads with the environmentalists," says Hiniker. "If legislators aren't paying attention to environmental issues, it could come back to haunt them."

On the issue of energy, Wisconsin clearly needs more high-voltage transmission lines and generation plants, says WMC government affairs director Eric Borgerding. But environmental groups won't accept that a modern, growing economy demands more energy, he says.

"They would have us believe we are supposed to solve our energy problems with more conservation, renewables, and the promise of fuel cells and distributed power," Borgerding says. "These things are not viable."

Hiniker says the next round of legislative elections this fall will feature an energized environmental movement with money to spend on key campaigns.

Plale, who is considered sensitive to environmental issues, doesn't regret the involvement of environmental groups in the legislative or election processes. But he wishes there was more room for compromise.

"The militancy of some groups paints the whole environmental community with the same wacky brush, and that isn't fair," Plale says. "They do a disservice to those of us who care but still seek a balance."

Pete Millard can be reached at 414-278-7788 or at

Copyright 2000 American City Business Journals Inc.



Foes hope to highlight project's environmental problems

Rivers Awareness Tour

By Steve Kuchera
Duluth News Tribune
July 24, 2000

Opponents of the proposed Arrowhead-Weston high-voltage transmission line believe the project would create a 250-mile-long swath of environmental destruction and increased hardships for Cree Indians living in Manitoba.

To draw attention to their concerns, power-line foes begin a weeklong trek from near Duluth to Keshena, Wis., Friday. Along the way, the group will hold paddles, hikes and social events to deliver its message.

"We think environmental costs are being left out of this debate," said Linda Ceylor, a spokeswoman for Save Our Unique Lands, one of the organizers of the Rivers Awareness Tour.

"Once you've built the line, it's there," she said. "If we decide in five years that we don't need it, are they really going to say `OK, we'll take it out?' We can't just put things back the way they were."

Project supporters say the 345-kilovolt line that Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service Corporation want to build between Hermantown and Wausau, Wis., will increase the reliability of the region's electrical system and help Wisconsin meet its growing energy needs.

Project opponents worry that the line will harm property values, health and the environment. They say greater emphasis should be put on conservation, renewable energy sources and on small power plants built where the electricity is needed.

"An ecological approach to energy stresses conservation and the alternatives available in the Midwest," said Kevin O'Brien, spokesman for Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice, which is also involved in the rivers tour.

Beyond backyards

Much of the media attention on the power-line debate has focused on the concerns of property owners along the line, creating an impression that opposition to the line is a not-in-my-backyard reaction, said Ann Stewart, another event organizer.

"But there are other issues, which are the ecological and the bioregional ones, the effects of transmission lines crossing wild and scenic areas," she said. "This line would cross a lot of special places."

The line would cross several rivers along its route, as well as pass through forests, farms and wetlands. A draft environmental impact statement done by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin found the Arrowhead-Weston line has a greater potential to harm the environment than three possible alternatives elsewhere in the state.

The Arrowhead-Weston line, however, is the only one that utility companies have asked to build. And the firms say they will do what they can to limit environmental damages.

"At all of the major streams and rivers we will use existing rights of way, and most of those are transmission lines," said Bob Lindholm, senior environmental compliance specialist with Minnesota Power.

Lindholm has met with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Public Service Commission, the National Park Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss ways to reduce the environmental impact of the line. There have been discussions about improving the scenic qualities of some rivers by having Minnesota Power pay to redesign local power grids to eliminate several distribution lines currently crossing the rivers.

There is no single route planned for the line. There are several possible routes, each with pros and cons. Some routes run through more remote areas -- keeping it away from people but breaking up forests, which can affect animals, such as timber wolves, that require solitude. Others make greater use of existing power or pipeline right of ways -- reducing the problem of forest fragmentation but bringing the line into close proximity to a larger number of people.

It will be up to the Public Service Commission to decide if the need for the line outweighs its environmental impacts and which, if any, of the routes it will follow.

The commission's staff is working on a final environmental impact statement, and is expected to begin hearings on the proposed line this fall.

Beyond the U.S. border

One issue the commissioners won't consider, but that some power-line foes want people to be aware of, is the controversy between the Cross Lake Cree and Manitoba Hydro. Four members of the Cross Lake (or Pimicikamak) Cree Nation are scheduled to attend the River Awareness Tour.

"Part of this event is to make people aware that there is a problem in Manitoba," Ceylor said. "It's something that has to be faced. It's not just about us in our backyards."

The conflict between the Cross Lake Nation and Manitoba began in the 1970s, when Manitoba Hydro built dams on Nelson River north of Winnipeg, flooding large tracts of land.

The flooding released mercury locked in the soils, polluting water and fish. Fluctuating water levels, erosion and trees washed into the reservoir have made water travel difficult and harmed wildlife. All this, critics say, have devastated the Cree.

"You took a vibrant subsistence culture and destroyed it and are replacing it with handouts," said Stewart, a lobbyist for the Cross Lake Nation.

Four of the five Cree First Nations affected by the hydro projects have accepted settlement packages totaling more than $350 million in compensation. Some of the nations support further development.

The Cross Lake Cree, however, haven't reached a final settlement with the company or province (which owns Manitoba Hydro) and don't want development they view as destructive.

If Arrowhead-Weston is built, O'Brien said, "It will give Manitoba Hydro the rationalization to double the amount of construction in northern Manitoba."

Manitoba Hydro's hydroelectric capability totals 5,003 megawatts, 60 percent of which is sold within the province. The company has an untapped potential of another 5,000 megawatts.

By comparison, the Arrowhead-Weston line's normal capacity would be 600 megawatts, with the ability to carry up to 750 megawatts for brief periods of time. And if it is built, the line would carry electricity from a number of different sources, Minnesota Power spokesman Terry Johnson said.

Trying to link Arrowhead-Weston with future, large-scale expansions of Manitoba Hydro is "one of those unfortunate exaggerations we are trying to contend with some of the folks campaigning in the U.S." said Donne Flanagan, a Manitoba government spokesman. "They are proponents of things like wind and solar and don't like hydro energy. They have thrown some of the legitimate, long-standing issue of the folks at Cross Lake into the middle of their campaigns."

O'Brien's group, Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice, is pressuring the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to cancel a contract between Northern States Power and Manitoba Hydro. The group urges more investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"The Minnesota electricity consumer is purchasing a product from Manitoba Hydro that doesn't meet our minimal Minnesota standards for the environment and human decency," O'Brien said.

A new provincial government took office last year and has a greater commitment to working with Manitoba's aboriginal peoples, Flanagan said.

"There is no denying there has been devastation caused by hydro development over the years," Eric Robinson, Manitoba's Minister of Aboriginal and Northern affairs and a member of the Cross Lake Cree Nation, said. "As a new (provincial) government we are determined to correct some of those wrongs that have been imposed upon our people."

"We have been misrepresented by environmental groups," Robinson said. "It's my hope that these groups are not trying to achieve their own ends by using the suffering and misery of Indian people."


Upper Midwest's River's Awareness Tour Kicks Off
Friday Evening, July 28

Paddlers, Native Americans, Environmentalists and Landowners To Unite Against Threats to the Bioregion's Rivers from Proposed Duluth-Wausau Transmission Routes

Catawba, WI, July 13 -- Grassroots organizations, tribes and individuals in the Upper Midwest are joining forces this summer to bring attention to the human and ecological impacts of a proposed 250-mile electric transmission line from Duluth, Minnesota, to Wausau, Wisconsin.

"This spring's conference in Minneapolis about the lack of environmental justice in the upper Midwest's energy policies, and the May 19 release of the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement) on the proposed routes in Wisconsin propelled us to take a bioregional perspective," said Linda Ceylor, spokesperson for Save Our Unique Lands, Inc., a Wisconsin group.

"An ecological approach to energy stresses conservation and the alternatives available in the Midwest," said Kevin Sands O'Brien, spokesperson for Minnesota Witness for Environmental Justice.

According to the DEIS, the line will cross rivers such as the St. Louis, St. Croix, Namekogan and Flambeau, as well as the Ice Age Trail. Other ecological impacts mentioned are forest fragmentation from road and corridor construction and degradation of wetlands.

"We've asked Pimicikamak Cree Indians to join us, since some of the power transmitted on this line would be generated in their traditional land in northern Manitoba," said Ceylor.

The week of events will include paddles and walks along the routes, as well as social and educational activities in towns such as Gordon, Ladysmith, Tomahawk and Medford.

All events are free and open to the public but registration is suggested, but people will not be turned away on the day of the event. The tour begins Friday evening, July 28 south of Duluth and ends at the Menominee Nation's annual pow-wow in Keshena on Friday, August 4.

For information about events in Wisconsin, call 715-474-2271
For information about the kick-off in Minnesota, call 612-871-8404

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


The River Awareness Tour
Coming through Tomahawk area - August 1

Hello All,

You may have heard about the folks from Canada coming through our area to talk to us about how our use of power affects people far away. The River Awareness Tour RAT, will bring members of the Cree Nation through the Tomahawk area this coming Tuesday, August 1, for a walk and paddle awareness event.

We want to invite you and friends to participate with us to walk, or paddle, or just come for a visit and a meal. We will be leaving from the parking area at the Mobile station where the Highway 86/County D exit is on Highway 51 just East of Tomahawk. We want to leave at 3:00 for a 2 mile walk down D to a boat landing on Lake Alice. We will all pile into canoes around 5:00 for a one hour paddle over to Lee's Landing on County Highway A for some food and visiting. The boat landing is off County D on Birch Road 1.3 miles East of 51. If you can bring a canoe and vests, please launch them before we start the walk, someone will be there to watch them. Our plan is to eat around 6:30, food and refreshments will be provided, it would help if you can bring a dish to pass or deserts. Lee's Landing is about 5 miles East of Highway 51 on County A.

So come for some of it, or all of it, meet our neighbors to the North, and do your part to stop the proposed transmission line from passing through the Northwoods. I guarantee it will be ten times more fun than a PSC hearing!! Feel free to pass this message around.

If you need more details, call 453-8510 or 453-6015, or send questions to There are other RAT events starting tomorrow in Duluth, details found on Paddle on! Jim Wise

Jim Wise
phone 715-453-6015 fax 715-453-9170
124 W Wisconsin Ave Tomahawk Wi 54487



Pages: Background on proposed MN-WI transmission lines
Transmission line - Updates: 2001.
2000: Jan.-May,
June-July, Aug.- Oct., Nov.-Dec.. 1999
Wisconsin's Rural Rebellion
Model Resolution on proposed Transmission Lines
Background on hydroelectric dams destroying Manitoba Cree rivers
Hydroelectric Dams - Updates: 2000, Apr.-July, Jan.-Mar., 1999
Midwest Treaty Network Contents