ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW) – It would cost $425-million, paid for by Wisconsinites through a roughly one percent increase in their electricity rates.
American Transmission Company wants to build 345 kilovolt transmission line through Western Wisconsin, saying there is need for more energy here.
"Right now the power is running on smaller lines," says Sarah Justus, a local relations manager at ATC.
"Trying to move power through those lines can cause congestion, which means you're moving power through lines too small to handle the volume," she adds. "That leads to your power outages, and those lines overloading."
There are currently a number of routes the Badger Coulee Transmission line could take.
Tuesday, ATC held an open house to gauge input from the public regarding which route(s) would be best.
The company eventually has to submit an application to Wisconsin's Public Service Commission in 2013. The PSC has the final say on whether the line gets built.
Justus says the line would also connect La Crosse with renewable energy resources to the west.
"While we do have wind resources here in Wisconsin, they're much more prevalent in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. So there's a missing piece of how you bring that power to where the people are, here," Justus says.
But protesters outside Tuesday's event paint a different picture.
"This is about moving energy from dirty coal from the Dakotas," says Irving Balto, one of the protesters. "It's about making money."
Balto and others raised a balloon 120 feet into the air, saying that's the minimum height one of ATC's electrical towers would be.
"Properties become worthless," Balto says. "Who wants to buy a house when the view at the end of your driveway is this huge, ugly power line?"
Justus says American Transmission Company would compensate those landowners who see the power lines erected on their property – in the event of the power line getting approved.
But Balto counters that those who live near but not directly under the power line won't get compensation – despite saying their property values will plummet as well.
If the PSC approves the Badger Coulee Line, American Transmission wants to begin construction in 2016.
The company hopes to have the line functioning by 2018.
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