American Transmission Co.

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Blog | American Transmission Co. - Part 7

ATC supports three native oak savannas in southeast Wisconsin

American Transmission Co. is helping to restore three native oak savannas in southeast Wisconsin through our Community Planting Program grants.

Once common in the Midwest, forming a boundary between prairies and forests, oak savannas are now one of the rarest ecosystems on earth. The openness of an oak savanna, with large trees growing far apart, also allows numerous types of native prairie plants to grow.

Kenosha County Veterans Memorial Park

One hundred oak trees were transplanted at the Kenosha County Veterans Memorial Park this spring. The trees, which are visible along walking trails and dispersed throughout 43 acres of the eastern portion of the park, are part of an ongoing oak savanna restoration project.

Over the last 15 years, Kenosha County has received and planted free tree saplings from the Argosy Foundation as well as overstock from Kenosha County’s Tree and Shrub Planting Program. The cost of the transplanting was partially funded through a grant from ATC’s Community Planting Program.

Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy

After clearing invasive species from the edge of an old growth hardwood forest, the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy planted over 250 native trees and woody shrubs as it continues to redevelop the oak savanna on the northeastern side of the conservancy. The trees and shrubs — a mix of American hazelnut, common witch-hazel, gray dogwood, elderberry, tamarack, American larch and a variety of oak species — were paid for by a grant from ATC’s Community Planting Program.

The 231-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy is the largest remaining intact natural area and wetland located on the shores of Geneva Lake and significantly contributes to the overall cleanliness of this clear-water glacial lake.

 Bristol Bay Park

The Village of Bristol planted 15-20 native oak and hickory trees in the new Bristol Bay Park. When Bristol Bay Park is fully developed, it will be a 37-acre natural area park with an oak savanna along its walking trails. This is the second Community Planting Program grant the village has received.

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

Sturgeon Bay Submarine Cable Replacement Project now complete

ATC’s three-year project to replace a half-mile, 69,000-volt submarine transmission line under the Sturgeon Bay Ship Channel is now complete. The new transmission line that connects Wisconsin’s lower and upper Door County enhances regional electric reliability and replaces a single circuit with three cables that were originally installed under the channel in the early 1980s.  

 To install the new circuit, ATC’s construction partner conducted horizontal directional drilling to bore an 1,883-foot-long, 3-foot-diameter hole into the rock bed, 155 feet below the channel. We then connected sections of the half-mile pipe that would contain the cable on land before pulling them through the bore hole under the channel. This required closing three different roadways in downtown Sturgeon Bay for several months, while the duct installation was connected to the termination points. The transmission cables were then pulled through the pipes and completed the splices and terminations. 

 The ATC project team worked closely with the city of Sturgeon Bay on road, intersection, and parking lot closures, all of which took place on both sides of the channel in downtown Sturgeon Bay. Adding to the challenge was that the city’s concurrent construction efforts to redevelop the west waterfront area in the same vicinity. 

“We appreciated ATC’s efforts to include the city of Sturgeon Bay in the route and construction coordination,” Marty Olejniczak, community development director for Sturgeon Bay. “Both sides of the underground bay crossing were tight sites with a lot of activity going on. The high degree of coordination allowed the city’s waterfront construction activities to co-exist with ATC’s crews and enable all projects to move forward smoothly.” 

 The $14.2 million project also included installing a new riser structure on the west side of the channel and terminations at the First Avenue Substation, along with fiber optic wire at the control house.  

 “By placing more of the transmission line underground, it allowed the removal of the poles, riser structure and fencing within Sawyer Park and other new development sites being created in the waterfront area, thereby making it more attractive and useable,” said Olejniczak. 

NEW Zoo and ATC Partner to Provide Fresh Tree Trimmings to Animals  

American Transmission Co.’s vegetation management program helps maintain a safe and reliable electric grid for homes and businesses in Wisconsin. Recently, vegetation removed from the electric transmission rights-of-way under the direction of ATC’s certified utility arborists became part of the menu for animals at the Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo & Adventure Park in Green Bay, Wis. 

 Trees can compromise safety or cause interruptions in electric service if adequate clearances are not maintained,” said Michelle Stokes, vegetation management manager at ATC. “By partnering with the NEW Zoo, we are finding a use for the tree trimmings to enhance the animals’ diets and quality of life, while also providing a better visitor experience.”  

 After ATC and our contractor, Asplundh Tree Expert LLC, delivered a load of fresh, safe and approved tree trimmings to the NEW Zoo, volunteers carefully prepped a selection of leaves for the popular daily Giraffe Feeding Experience. Another portion of the browse was placed inside the giraffe habitat for resident giraffes Zuri and Nigel to enjoy “straight from the branch.” The NEW Zoo’s bison, elk, moose, prairie dogs, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, and domestic goats also received fresh browse. While the penguins don’t eat browse, they received a few branches to play with and to use for their nests. 

Browse – plant material cut for consumption or enrichment – is a crucial element in some animals’ diets because it’s full of nutrition that some herbivores need (e.g., proteins, fats, and amino acids). It also promotes natural behaviors – such as nibbling leaves, stripping bark, and chewing on stems – and helps prevent animals from eating the vegetation that grows within their habitats. 

 “Animals both small and tall are fed the browse, which is spread throughout their habitats to encourage natural foraging behaviors. Zoo visitors who observe this also experience more natural animal behavior,” said Carmen Murach, curator of animals at the NEW Zoo. “Because we don’t have a walk-in refrigerator to store browse, we rely on our zookeepers to cut fresh browse from our own forest when they have time or on deliveries like this one from ATC.” 

 The NEW Zoo & Adventure Park is located 10 miles northwest of downtown Green Bay, within the Brown County Reforestation Camp and the Brown County Parks System. The NEW Zoo & Adventure Park and Brown County Reforestation Camp together function as a 1,560-acre recreational area serving over a half-million visitors each year. The NEW Zoo is one of only seven Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos in the country that does not receive local or regional tax support for the zoo’s annual operating budget. 

Free ATC Grow Smart® seed packs available at local libraries

Nearly 70 libraries in Brown, Dane, Dickinson, Jefferson, Milwaukee and Waukesha counties are giving away free smooth blue aster and butterfly weed seed packets, while supplies last, courtesy of American Transmission Co.’s Grow Smart® program.

ATC’s Grow Smart® program helps property owners and communities identify low-growing, beautiful vegetation that can be planted in and near transmission line rights-of-way. Trees and shrubs can be an unsafe combination when grown within electric transmission system rights-of-way. The program includes extensive community and public outreach and features horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers.

“We generally give away Grow Smart® seed packets at major garden and lawn shows to encourage people to plant low-growing, native plants under transmission lines,” said Greg Levesque, director of corporate communications, policy and strategy. “Many of these events were cancelled due to the pandemic, so we are giving our remaining inventory to public library systems to help improve pollinator habitat in communities where ATC employees live.”

The seed packets are available at these participating libraries, while supplies last.

  • Brown County libraries – Central, East, and Southwest libraries in Green Bay, Kress Family Library in De Pere, Weyers-Hilliard Library in Howard, Ashwaubenon Library, Pulaski Library and Wrightstown Library
  • Dane County libraries – Twenty locations and the Dane County Bookmobile.
    • Madison’s Alicia Ashman, Central, Goodman South, Hawthorne, Lakeview, Meadowridge, Monroe Street, Pinney, and Sequoya libraries
    • DeForest Area Public Library, Fitchburg Public Library, E.D. Locke Public Library in McFarland, Middleton Public Library, Oregon Library, Rosemary Garfoot Public Library in Cross Plains, Stoughton Public Library, Sun Prairie Public Library, Verona Public Library, Waunakee Public Library
    • The Dane County Bookmobile makes weekly stops in Dane, Blue Mounds, Brooklyn, Cottage Grove, Mt. Vernon, Paoli, Roxbury, Waubesha Heights in the town of Dunn, Westport, as well as Maple Bluff, Owl Creek Park and Shorewood Hills in Madison.
  • Dickinson County libraries – Dickinson County Library in Iron Mountain, the Solomonson Library in Norway, and the North Dickinson Library in Felch.
  • Jefferson County libraires – Jefferson Public Library, Karl Junginger Memorial Library in Waterloo and the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library in Whitewater.
  • Milwaukee County libraries – Twenty-two city and suburban locations
    • Milwaukee’s downtown Central Library and the Atkinson, Bay View, Center Street, East, Martin Luther King, Good Hope, Mitchell Street, Tippecanoe, Villard Square, Washington Park and Zablocki branches
    • Brown Deer Public Library, Cudahy Family Library, Franklin Public Library, Greenfield Public Library, Hales Corners Public Library, North Shore Library, Oak Creek Public Library, Shorewood Public Library, South Milwaukee Public Library, Wauwatosa Public Library and Whitefish Bay Public Library
  • Waukesha County libraries – Big Bend Public Library, Delafield Public Library, Elm Grove Public Library, Alice Baker Memorial Library in Eagle, Menomonee Falls Public Library, Mukwonago Community Library, Muskego Public Library, New Berlin Public Library, Town Hall Library in North Lake, Pewaukee Public Library, Pauline Haass Public Library in Sussex, and Waukesha Public Library

 “Adding just a few native prairie plants to community and residential gardens or landscaping can help pollinators,” said Melinda Myers, ATC Grow Smart® spokesperson and gardening expert. “Wildflowers like purple coneflower, butterfly weed, and smooth blue aster add color to yards and provide food for bees, birds and butterflies. Prairie grasses like little bluestem and prairie dropseed can add interest to landscaping, while also providing food and shelter for pollinators.”

Free garden information for children and adults – ATC and Myers have created several free plant-related resources for both children and adults, including:

Promoting pollinator habitat – ATC’s own Pollinator Habitat Program encourages planting low-growing, native flowering perennials within the transmission rights-of-way. This type of compatible vegetation can thrive within transmission rights-of-way, making utility corridors ideal for pollinators who benefit from the right-of-way space as a contiguous flight path. Roughly 40% of the more than 10,000 miles of transmission line right-of-way we manage has been identified as suitable pollinator habitat. The four-acre native prairie surrounding ATC’s Pewaukee, Wis., headquarters has been recertified as a native landscape by the Wildlife Habitat Council since 2018.

ATC and Melinda Myers kick off summer Grow Smart gardening series  

The summer growing season is upon us and that means nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myers is promoting planting low-growing, native vegetation as part of our Grow Smart program. This year, we are pleased to continue sponsoring Melinda’s live event appearances and free virtual gardening seminars.

If you or someone you know is looking for some gardening tips and inspiration this summer and fall, register and attend one (or more) of theses live or virtual events. Don’t forget to also check out our Young Gardener Activities  and YouTube video with tips for starting plants from seed.


Live Appearances

Lake Country Virtual Art & Garden Tour, Friday, July 23 (watch for details) – Melinda will tour and interview gardeners who created amazing Pewaukee-area gardens in this Facebook Live event.

Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 5-15, 2021 – Melinda will be at the We Energies’ Stage (near first and 84th streets)

Green Bay Botanical Garden’s 25th Anniversary Birthday Celebration, Sept. 25, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. –  Register for a timed entry into the free event.


Virtual Gardening Seminars
Melinda Myers will provide valuable insight into sustainable gardening topics. Register for one or more! Missed one? Melinda’s seminars are available on demand for a limited time.

Gardening with Kids!, June 1, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Creating Pollinator Gardens, June 8, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (hosted by Olbrich Botanical Gardens)

Strategies for adding native plants to your landscape, June 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (hosted by Olbrich Botanical Gardens)

Low growing shrubs and vines to attract and support pollinators, June 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (hosted by Olbrich Botanical Gardens)

“Ask the Plant Doctor” question and answer session, July 20, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (hosted by Olbrich Botanical Gardens)

Since 2014, ATC has partnered with Melinda Myers to help landowners learn about compatible vegetation near transmission lines. Trees and shrubs are an important part of the landscape. But trees, shrubs and transmission lines can be an unsafe combination. Transmission lines can sway or sag, and tall or nearby vegetation can compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system. ATC’s Grow Smart program helps property owners and communities identify low-growing, beautiful, native vegetation that can be planted the smart way – a safe distance from transmission line rights-of-way.