American Transmission Co.

Helping to keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong®

Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 30

Notes from the Field – Branch River Substation a haven for pollinators

Editor’s note: September in northeastern Wisconsin. Fall colors start to hint at future glory, native plants go to seed, providing nourishment for wildlife, while delicate asters and black-eyed Susans remain to offer bursts of color on the landscape. In wetter years, mosquitoes also make a bold stand and swarm alongside the butterflies and bees that are drawn to any of the many American Transmission Co. Pollinator planting sites. It’s the quintessential summer swan song.

ATC environmental project managers traverse hills and countryside monitoring construction activities year-round. They are the eyes and ears in the field, working with contractors to ensure that we demonstrate our environmental commitment.

Our Notes from the Field blog features highlights of what our environmental project managers see while they work on projects throughout our service area. This installment features photos and observations from Erika Biemann, ATC senior environmental project manager.

Prior to joining ATC, Erika worked for the City of Milwaukee and an engineering consulting firm. Biemann’s experience includes environmental project management, environmental site investigations, remediation, hydrogeology and waste management.

Biemann holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology with an emphasis in environmental studies from Lawrence University and a master of science degree in biological sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Biemann’s graduate research focus was limnology and aquatic biology.

Biemann enjoys volunteering through ATC’s Green Team and Days of Caring programs. Biemann also is involved in school parent organizations and helps manage youth sports teams.


The Branch River Substation, Town of Cato, Wis., was placed in service this year. But long before the power began flowing, environmental assessments, site-specific engineering and a comprehensive planting and drainage plan were developed by the project team. Members of the team recently visited the site to view progress.

Supporting school-based food pantries in southern Wisconsin

American Transmission Co. is getting into the back-to-school spirit by partnering with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin to help support Merrill Elementary School Pantry in Beloit, the Southwest Technical College Food Pantry in Fennimore, and the Mobile Pantry program in Platteville.

“Support for our school-based food pantries, and our mobile pantries is critical,” says Dan Stein, President/CEO for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. “We’re grateful to ATC for their support of those in our community who struggle to make ends meet.”

In addition to monetary contributions, Dane County employees volunteer their time. Information about volunteering is available at

ATC’s contribution will be used to:

  • Cover 40 percent of the annual food cost and provide nearly 12,000 pounds of food through the Beloit School Pantry to at least 60 different families and 125 children annually
  • Cover nearly 50 percent of the annual food costs and provide nearly 6,500 pounds of food to the Southwest Technical College Food Pantry – which serves about 60 households per month
  • Cover nearly three months of food costs and provide nearly 19,500 pounds of food to 100 households per month at the Platteville Mobile Pantry

Pat, a food pantry recipient, is trying to raise grandchildren and great-grandchildren on a fixed income.

“The school food pantry program has been a lifesaver for my family. So many families would be going without, and the children really need it,” Pat said.

ATC kicks off United We Care campaign

This week, ATC celebrates the start of its annual United Way campaign. Our theme, United We Care, is a reminder that we make a greater impact together to support the work that United Way does to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our local community.

“United Way reaches every corner of our community, and our campaign participation is one of the most important ways that we care for the people in our service area,” said Bill Marsan, executive vice president and general counsel, and ATC’s executive campaign sponsor. “Next to safe, reliable electric transmission, serving the community well is our priority.”

Our campaign takes on an even greater significance this year with Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Rowe honored to be a co-chair of the Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County United Way campaign. “I strongly advocate for United Way because not only do they support great programs that make the community stronger,” said Rowe, “they also help give people the tools and skills they need to improve their own lives.”

Events were held across the company to get the campaign off to a great start. In Pewaukee, we welcomed special guests from United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, The Women’s Center and The Salvation Army, and made 100 sandwiches to donate to the organizations. In De Pere, a guest and client from and ASPIRO shared success stories about how the organization provides services to people with disabilities and empowers children with special needs. United Way of Dickinson County visited our office in Kingsford, Mich., to share plans for a new program that will assist police with kits for children in trauma. Our offices in the United Way of Dane County neighborhood had a football toss competition at their events, along with speakers from United Way of Dane County and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, and the winner was United Way!

We look forward to a successful United We Care campaign!

ATC, contractor crews work to restore power for thousands following severe storms

Two massive storm systems and several tornadoes rolled through ATC’s service area on Aug. 28, creating eight transmission line outages and impacting nearly 40,000 retail customers across 12 Wisconsin counties.

ATC operators in Cottage Grove and Pewaukee were paying close watch to the weather radar prior to the arrival of both storms. As the first storm moved through south central Wisconsin, several 69,000-volt lines were fiercely impacted causing a succession of outages that trickled east.

From the operations centers, operators are usually able to assess exactly where in the line a fault is occurring. If those assessments through high-speed data communications can’t be made remotely, ATC relies on crews from our local distribution companies like Alliant Energy and We Energies to be the boots on the ground and provide observations from the field. In this weather event, many of those inspections were initially hindered by the sheer depth of the water from rainfall that was blocking roadways.

The most common reason that an outage occurs on transmission lines is due to lightning. When the electrical current strikes a line, it will typically trip and re-close. In some cases, it does not – which is when onsite inspection must occur. In the case of the storms on Aug. 28, other unique impacts occurred. The wind fractured many trees and branches, dropping them onto the lines and forcing outages. On a pair of lines east of Fond du Lac, a piece of metal blown off a nearby structure became embedded into the pole arms and conductors. More than 20 poles along a line north of Lomira snapped in the wind, taking the line down. And although some of the transmission lines impacted were 138-kV lines, most were 69-kV lines – which are typically carried on wooden poles.

Despite the number of outages and the 25 crew members dispatched, most of the transmission lines were restored after the water subsided. Many of ATC’s maintenance and engineering staff worked through the night on Aug. 28 to help crew members restore all but one transmission line – which is still undergoing repairs. Meanwhile, operators’ switching efforts restored power to support customer and system needs on ATC’s transmission grid.

As a precaution, ATC also flew aerial patrols over the storm-damaged areas, which revealed 16 different instances of leaning trees or poles. For safety and reliability reasons, the most severe cases were immediately addressed.

During extreme weather conditions or on a clear, calm day, our goal is always the same – to keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong.

Cristo Rey Students Join ATC

The newest employees of American Transmission Co. are much younger than average — maybe even younger than some of the cars in our parking lot. That’s because they’re still in high school!

We recently welcomed four students from Milwaukee’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School to our Pewaukee office. The students are part of Cristo Rey’s unique work-study program, which enables students to earn a portion of their educational costs by working at area companies.

The students began working at ATC the week of Aug. 20 and will continue, alternating work days, until mid-June 2019. Each student works approximately five days a month helping out with entry-level tasks in several departments: information technology, human resources, facilities, real estate, environmental and system operations support.

Through the program, the students gain valuable experience in professional work environments, and ATC benefits from their help. At ATC, we care about the communities we serve, and we’re happy to help develop the area’s talent pool for the future.

Welcome Cristo Rey students!

ATC employees pose for a selfie with the Cristo Rey students at the Draft Day event on Aug. 17.