American Transmission Co.

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Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 3

Our hearts are with Waukesha

American Transmission Co. cares and we are committed to the communities we live in and serve. Our hearts go out to all those who were affected by the tragic incident at the Waukesha Christmas parade. Waukesha is home to our business, employees, their families and our neighbors and we are profoundly affected by the senseless loss of life and injury that occurred.

To assist the families who were impacted by the tragic incident, ATC is making a $10,000 donation to the United for Waukesha Community Fund on behalf of our employees.

“It is at times like this that we are most grateful to United Way for helping us support the most urgent community needs,” said Mike Rowe, president and CEO. “We appreciate them for being the link to caring for these families during this difficult time.”

Our ATC family will continue to keep Waukesha in our thoughts as our community mourns and begins the process of healing.

Greenfield and Ozaukee County add pollinator habitat to parks thanks to ATC grants

The city of Greenfield and Ozaukee County added habitat for bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators in popular parks this year thanks to American Transmission Co.’s Pollinator Habitat Program.

Roughly 35% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators. Part of the reason for the recent decline in pollinator populations is due to loss of habitat, so efforts to restore pollinator habitat like these projects is critical to current and future pollinator health.

Enhancing Kulwicki Park in Greenfield

The city of Greenfield used an ATC Pollinator Habitat Program grant to plant low-growing, native perennials in a section the ATC transmission line corridor that runs the entire length of the southern border of Kulwicki Park near Hwy 100 and Cold Spring Road. Kulwicki Park is the premiere little league park in the area and the transmission corridor provides ideal viewing for outfield spectators.

Volunteers from the Greenfield Pollinator Protection Committee seeded the transmission corridor and pedestrian pathway with native plants. The Committee also planted native serviceberry shrubs in the southwestern corner of the park to provide food and shelter for birds in partnership with the Wild Birds Unlimited store adjacent to the park. Kulwicki Park is home to the area’s first eBird Hotspot, a shared location where birders can report their bird sightings.

Restoring a prairie and savannah at Tendick Nature Park in Ozaukee County

The Ozaukee County Planning and Parks District continues to restore a warm-season prairie within Tendick Nature Park, a 125-acre county park five miles north of Saukville. Ozaukee County seeded the next phase of restoration of approximately five acres of old farm field to a warm-season prairie thanks to an ATC Pollinator Habitat Program grant.

The County also used an ATC Community Planting Program grant to plant a variety of native trees within and around the prairie restoration site. This will help create a savannah-like ecosystem, increase the diversity of the surrounding forest and wetland habitats, and help offset the loss of ash trees caused by emerald ash borer.

ATC’s pollinator habitat program

ATC’s Pollinator Habitat Program promotes planting low-growing vegetation within a transmission line right-of-way to beautify a community in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system, while also providing habitat for pollinators that use the utility corridor as a flight path.

The Pollinator Habitat Program is open to cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes within ATC’s service area, as well as to entities that allow public access to ATC rights-of-way (e.g., nature preserves, non-profits or public land managers). To qualify for the program, communities must commit that all current and future planting plans near high-voltage electric transmission lines will comply with ATC’s maintenance standards.

ATC accepts applications from June 1 through Sept. 30, and award recipients are selected and notified by the end of the year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.

ATC and MGE: United for the community

MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler and ATC Executive Vice President and General Counsel Bill Marsan teamed up for United Way this year.

American Transmission Co. and Madison Gas and Electric Company recently collaborated on a friendly challenge to benefit United Way.  

Both companies believe strongly in United Way and completed their United Way fundraising campaigns in October. This year, the company with the highest percent increase in United Way campaign participation got to choose the location of a volunteer activity led by ATC Executive Vice President and General Counsel Bill Marsan and MGE Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler, who is also an ATC board member. By a small margin, ATC won the challenge and ATC employees selected the volunteer activity for all participants. 

“Jeff reached out to me as ATC’s campaign sponsor to see what he could do to help support our campaign,” said Marsan. “We came up with this simple challenge as a way to energize each of our own campaigns. We knew it was a win for the community no matter which company came out on top.” 

“We work together to serve our communities every day, and supporting United Way together is an extension of that call to service,” said Keebler, who is this year’s Vice Chair of Dane County’s United Way campaign. 

The real winner was Eras Senior Network. On the crisp fall morning of Nov. 3, Marsan, Keebler and ATC employee volunteers did yard work and other seasonal chores at the homes of two local seniors. Eras Senior Network, supported in part by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, paired our volunteers with their clients, both of whom are in their early nineties and living in their own homes. Donna Kerr of Menomonee Falls has lived in her home since building it in the 1960s and raised her two children there. Don Schrock of Waukesha is a decorated Korean war veteran (fitting for this Veteran’s Day story), father and widower, and has lived in his home since the 1970s. Both Kerr and Schrock are able to live independently thanks to the extra help Eras Senior Network and its volunteers provide. 

Marsan and Keebler had such a great time volunteering together that they plan to do it again later this month at Madison’s Community Action Coalition. 

ATC helps three communities replace trees lost to emerald ash borer

Three Wisconsin communities replaced trees lost to emerald ash borer and improved their urban tree diversity this year, thanks to grants from American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program.

Emerald ash borer is an invasive, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees by eating the tissues under the bark. Native to northeastern Asia, it was first detected in the U.S. in 2002 and in Wisconsin in 2008. Since then, EAB has been reported in 85% of Wisconsin’s 72 counties (as of September 2021).

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, EAB generally kills ash trees in urban areas and along roadsides in infested areas, costing municipal governments millions of dollars for tree removal and replacement. The financial impact of EAB in Wisconsin forests is unknown but is believed to be substantial.

While the insect spreads slowly on its own, EAB impacts are greatly accelerated when people unintentionally move it in firewood and nursery stock.

Fond du Lac (Fond du Lac County)

The city of Fond du Lac recently planted several trees in Lakeside Park West to replace those lost to EAB, which is killing all the untreated ash trees in the city. The trees were planted near Supple Marsh, along Howard Litscher Drive to provide shade and natural beauty for park visitors.

These additional trees—a mix of Jefferson elm, redpointe maple, bald cypress, tamarack and tuliptree—will create more fall color interest, increase food and cover for wildlife, and attract butterflies, songbirds, and birds of prey. Lakeside Park borders Fond du Lac River and Lake Winnebago, one of the largest inland lakes in the U.S. As the trees grow, the city hopes they will be roosting sites for eagles and hawks, increasing bird viewing opportunities for park users. Fond du Lac is a recognized Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Manitowoc (Manitowoc County)

The city of Manitowoc planted several trees in Red Arrow Park, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. The park offers many recreational amenities, such as a handicap-accessible lakefront and beach walkway. Approximately 7.23 acres of the nearly 20 acres of park is a conservancy area consisting of a narrow strip of land running south approximately 2,800 feet along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

This spring, the city removed 22 ash trees impacted by EAB. The grant from ATC is helping to replace some of those trees with a more diverse tree canopy of oak, elm, hackberry, birch, and white cedar trees. Manitowoc is a recognized Tree City USA.

Menasha (Winnebago County)

In the city of Menasha, EAB is destroying canopy cover in the same neighborhoods that lost the majority of their trees to Dutch elm disease. Partnering with an elementary school and the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh’s Fox Cities Campus, the city planted 30 new trees on Second Street between Manitowoc, De Pere and Appleton Streets.

Planting additional species trees that are less common to the area diversifies the urban forest and protect it from future diseases. Improving canopy cover also leads to energy savings, improved air and storm water quality, and increased home values to people living there. Menasha is a recognized Tree City USA, Menasha Utilities is a Tree Line USA, and UW–Oshkosh’s Fox Cities Campus is a designated Tree Campus USA.

ATC’s planting program

ATC’s Community Planting Program enables us to encourage and support communities to plant trees and vegetation that beautify the landscape in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system.

The program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in ATC’s service area for planting projects on public property, outside transmission line rights-of-way. Program funds can be used to plant trees and other tall-growing vegetation. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000.

ATC accepts applications from June 1 through Sept. 30, and award recipients are selected and notified by the end of the year. Awards range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.

Safety Days: We commit to safety with our partners 

Working closely with our partners to operate safely is essential to success at American Transmission Co. Safety Days is a day committed to each of our vegetation management contract partners to focus entirely on safety.  

 The events are held at locations chosen by our contract partners; one day for each of our three major vegetation management partners. More than 150 contract crew members and managers from Asplundh Tree Expert Company, Nelson Tree Service and Zielies participated in the 2021 Safety Days.  

 “There has been unwavering support for Safety Days at ATC from the top down,” said Michelle Stokes, manager of Vegetation Management and Transmission Line Maintenance “It’s a serious commitment on behalf of the company to take workers off the job for a day to concentrate on safety, and we have found it to be very valuable.” 

 According to Stokes, Safety Days foster great discussion among the attendees. The opportunity to get everyone dedicated to ATC’s vegetation management program together at once allows front-line workers to openly discuss safety issues in job-specific circumstances with co-workers and supervisors. 

 Each contract partner is asked to identify relevant topics to cover during these sessions. This year, the contract partners based their agendas on the ATC safety and human performance data metrics. Leading indicators in the way of good catches, near misses, all-stops were top of mind, along with chainsaw safety, equipment maintenance, tree climbing, and roping and rigging techniques. A few Nelson Tree crew members who went to California in fall 2020 shared tips for removing dead trees more safely. Crews are dealing with more dead ash trees with the outbreak of emerald ash borer, and it is not safe to climb dead trees.  

“With the ATC support and involvement, it really shows that the utility cares. We always have to make time to do some training in the field, but this day allows everyone to be together, and focus on some specific training,” said IBEW/ATC Vegetation Management Safety Liaison Brian Smith. 

 Smith was recognized during Safety Days for his significant contributions in fostering a safe work culture within ATC field operations. His coaching on safe work practices and communicating safe work expectations across the service area over the last four years has positively influenced ATC’s safety performance. ATC presented Smith with a letter of appreciation from Mike Rowe, ATC president and chief executive officer; Mark Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Jared Winters, director of asset maintenance and commissioning; and Stokes.  Nelson Tree leadership also presented Smith with a glass plaque to recognize his contributions. 

 “Safety Days are one of the key components of our ATC vegetation management contractor safety program,” said Winters. “These training sessions provide our ATC vegetation management team with a fantastic opportunity to engage with our contractors, showing that we care about each person working safely, and that we are committed to each person going home everyday injury free.”