NORWALK, Wis. -- Norwalk residents weighed in today on a major power line project that could impact their community.
If approved, the Badger Coulee Transmission Line Project would put up 150 miles of power lines or more from north of the La Crosse area to northern Dane County.
Thursday’s open house in Norwalk was the last chance for residents to make their voices heard before American Transmission Company picks the final proposed routes.
Dewey Brooks came to the open house with a picture of his family farm, where cows were just milked this morning. He's worried the Badger Coulee Transmission Line could go right through the property.
"It's a deep concern to me. The farm has been in the Brooks name for over 150 years,” said Brooks. “It's going to take the beauty of the farm and hurt the family, and I believe it's going to take the beauty away from Farmers Valley.”
The American Transmission Company’s local relations manager Sarah Justus said comments like Brooks' will be taken into account.
“We cannot only take those back and use them when we try and make our routing and siting decisions to narrow down the routes, but all the written comments about every single route we've ever considered will go into our application so the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin can see what everybody told us. And that's why it's so important that people provide the written comments, whether they came today or not," said Justus.
ATC argued the $425 million project would improve electric system reliability, make Wisconsinites' electric bills smaller, and expand infrastructure for greater use of renewable energy.
But not everyone sees it that way. Groups opposing the project are concerned about the burden on taxpayers and question whether improving the existing system could be more cost effective.
Plus, there are many residents like Brooks who don't want to see it in their backyards.
“I would like to see it denied. I don't really want to see this happen to any landowners," said Brooks.
"There is no perfect route anywhere out there. There's challenges all along. And it's a difficult task to try and find how to balance those, whether it's residential areas, prime farmland, environmentally sensitive areas. There's a lot to take into account. And the comments that we get from the public help flesh that out," said Justus.
ATC plans to use the public feedback from this month’s six open houses to narrow their plans down to just a handful of proposed routes. The company will present those routes to the public later this year, and then file an application to build the line with the state's Public Service Commission in 2013.
It could take the commission a year and a half to come to a decision.