News | ATC
ATC joins nationwide effort to help monarch butterflies
Pewaukee, Wis. – ATC is joining a new nationwide effort to restore and increase the monarch butterfly population.
The monarch butterfly population has shrunk by 80% in the eastern United States since the 1990s due to the loss of habitat and food sources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the monarch butterfly as threatened or endangered by 2024.
One of Wisconsin’s first utilities to join the National Monarch Butterfly Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for Energy and Transportation Lands, ATC also was one of 45 energy companies and transportation companies who worked with the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group to develop the voluntary conservation agreement.
Approved by the USFWS in April 2020, the CCAA is the largest agreement of its kind ever developed and represents an unprecedented cross-section collaboration between industries and the USFWS. Over the next two decades the agreement is expected to grow to include millions of acres of land managed nationally by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States.
Enhancing grid reliability and pollinator habitat
The CCAA recognizes the important work that organizations like ATC are already doing for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators, and it provides an incentive to institutionalize beneficial vegetation management practices.
“Much of the habitat conservation potential of the CCAA already exists in our vegetation management practices,” said Michelle Stokes, ATC’s director of field services. “These practices help ATC prevent tree and power line interactions, maintain compliance with regulations, and increase the reliability of the electric grid.”
ATC’s integrated vegetation management practices already help make its transmission lines rights-of-way suitable for pollinators. Roughly 40% of the over 10,000 miles of transmission line right-of-way ATC manages may currently serve as suitable pollinator habitat and our practices help make these areas suitable for pollinators who benefit from the contiguous flight path that the company’s rights-of-way provide. The company also developed a first-of-its-kind model to map and identify existing suitable pollinator habitat and gaps in pollinator pathways along its transmission lines.
ATC works to ensure that adequate clearances between transmission lines, trees and other vegetation are maintained at all times. To achieve safe clearances in the rights‑of‑way, incompatible vegetation is pruned or removed. Vegetation that is likely to re-sprout after cutting may be treated with herbicides to inhibit re-growth. Targeted herbicides use can help promote the growth of compatible vegetation that can thrive and support a suitable habitat for pollinators like the monarch butterfly and other wildlife.
Existing activities support butterfly habitat
Organizations enrolling in the CCAA also commit to implementing conservation measures that address the key threats under their control and to promote diverse breeding and foraging habitat for the monarch butterfly. These measures include activities ATC is already undertaking like seeding and planting with pollinator mixes, setting aside undisturbed areas for habitat, targeted herbicide application, and conservation mowing activities to minimize impacts to the monarch butterfly.
ATC has used pollinator-enhanced seed mix on over 800 acres of land as part of construction projects since it started tracking acres seeded since 2016. The company has also helped over 30 entities that allow public access to our rights-of-way develop roughly 275 acres of pollinator habitat through our Pollinator Habitat grant program since 2017.
For the past eight years, ATC has helped educate landowners about low-growing, pollinator-friendly perennials and grasses can grow and thrive within transmission line rights-of-way through its Grow Smart® program. The company’s four-acre native prairie surrounding its Pewaukee, Wis., headquarters has been certified as a native landscape by the Wildlife Habitat Council since 2018.
Anyone can grow food for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. Milkweed plants – like butterfly weed, common milkweed and swamp milkweed – are the only food source for monarch butterflies. However, adult monarch butterflies can get the nectar they need from many flowering plants. ATC’s Grow Smart Planting Guide provides recommendations on what to plant to support pollinators.
Henry Vilas Zoo and ATC partner to improve animal habitat
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Animals at the Henry Vilas Zoo recently received a donation of roughly 10 logs and stumps for enrichment purposes, courtesy of American Transmission Co., Asplundh Tree Expert LLC, and some village of Oregon property owners.
“We are so grateful to ATC, and their contractor Asplundh, for bringing their specialized equipment and staff to the Zoo to place these huge logs and stumps in some of our animal exhibits,” said Beth Petersen, general curator of animals at the Henry Vilas Zoo. “As a free zoo, it is vital for us to have strong community partnerships like these that have an immediate benefit to animal welfare.”
The logs and tree stumps will allow seven animal species to engage in natural behaviors and encourage them to be more active. This type of enrichment helps to satisfy the animals’ physical and psychological needs.
- Harmon the white rhinoceros loves logs! He will lift, push and play with two long tree trunks placed in his enclosure
- Eddie the reticulated giraffe got a large stump to provide some variety in his habitat
- Altain the Bactrian camel received a large stump to use as a scratching post
- The Zoo’s herd of goats got a new large tree stump to climb on
- Farah and Luana, critically endangered Somali wild asses, received two stumps to add some new features in their space
- Flora, Fauna and Claude, the North American porcupines, will use the two large stumps to climb and rest on
- Ash and Lexi, the grizzly bears, will get their three tree stumps in the spring after they wake up from torpor, which they may use to sharpen their claws or dig for insects
The maple, spruce and willow trees were removed from several properties in Oregon, Wis., and donated to the zoo with the property owners’ permission.
“Trees can compromise safety or cause interruptions in electric service if adequate clearances are not maintained,” said Michelle Stokes, director of field services at ATC. “By partnering with the Vilas Zoo, we are finding a use for the trees to enhance the animals’ quality of life, while also providing a better visitor experience.”
ATC’s vegetation management program helps maintain a safe and reliable electric grid for homes and businesses in Wisconsin. The trees were removed from the electric transmission right-of-way under the direction of ATC’s certified utility arborists. ATC’s easement rights generally give the public utility the right to remove vegetation in the transmission right-of-way.
Utilities that operate high-voltage transmission lines are required by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to establish and follow a vegetation management program that helps eliminate any safety and reliability issues of their high-voltage transmission lines.
Note to editors: Video footage of the tree delivery and placement into the animals’ habitats can be found on our YouTube page. If you are interested in photos or b-roll, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about ATC’s vegetation management practices can be found here.
ATC announces promotions to support evolving grid needs
PEWAUKEE, Wis. — American Transmission Co. announces the promotion of four executives that reflect the company’s commitment to the strategic vision of providing safe, reliable transmission service in an increasingly complex electric grid. Jared Winters has been named vice president, construction and asset maintenance. Debbie Masbruch has been named vice president, project controls, supply chain and analytics. Sarah Justus has been named director, major project development. Michelle Stokes has been named director, field services.
Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Mike Rowe said, “Promoting these individuals sets ATC up for success as we meet the business challenges of the evolving energy landscape and our strategic priorities.”
As vice president, construction and asset maintenance, Winters will have accountability of all ATC construction and maintenance activities. Winters has over 20 years of experience at ATC, across several groups including asset maintenance, commissioning, construction and engineering. His breadth of experience, expertise and strategic leadership position him well for this expanded role.
In her over 20 years of experience with ATC, Masbruch has continually demonstrated strategic foresight and the ability to navigate the increased uncertainty and volatility of material sourcing. As vice president, project controls, supply chain and analytics, Masbruch will continue to grow these departments to meet the needs of a complex future.
With prior roles across construction, local relations, real estate and external affairs, Justus is well positioned for her new role as director, major project development. In this newly created position, Justus will provide the strategic direction and coordination of company activities between project initiation and construction.
Stokes joins the executive leadership team after 18 years with ATC in roles of increasing responsibility across environmental, vegetation management and transmission-line maintenance. Stokes will be leading a new function that aligns departments responsible for construction management, vegetation management, commissioning and maintenance.
Additionally, Scott Herbst’s role as vice president, enterprise technology, information and security has been redefined to include oversight of technology and cybersecurity strategy. He will continue to lead with a renewed focus on aligned technology prioritization to address the convergence of operational and informational technology.
American Transmission Co. publishes annual 10-Year Transmission System Assessment
Evolving energy landscape driving the need for renewable interconnections, asset maintenance upgrades
PEWAUKEE, Wis. – American Transmission Co. has published its new 10-year assessment, identifying electric grid improvements for the upcoming decade throughout the company’s service area. Specifically, the plan calls for expenditures of $2.8 billion in asset maintenance, $1.1 billion in regional Multi-Benefits Projects (including the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s recently approved Long-Range Transmission Planning projects), $0.5 billion in network projects and between $0.7 billion and $1.9 billion in other capital expenditures.
The evolving energy landscape and renewable generation coming online are driving the majority of projects identified within this assessment.
“We continue to work with MISO on the significant uptick in the generation-to-transmission requests now in the queue,” said Tom Dagenais, director, system planning. “Presently, there are 109 proposed projects in the generation queue within our service area, totaling over 14.1 gigawatts. The massive influx of these proposed connections to our system requires in-depth analysis by our planners to ensure we have adequate projects and time to interconnect these renewable generation resources. MISO’s Long-Range Transmission Planning will be key to how we plan for and integrate the proposed projects in the queue.”
ATC also manages the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system by maintaining existing assets and aging infrastructure throughout the service area.
“Evaluating renewal projects is an ongoing and methodical process,” said Jim Vespalec, director of asset planning and engineering. “Over time, exposure to weather and avian species can adversely impact and deteriorate wooden poles. We also review and test substation equipment at regular intervals, assessing the scope and timing of the maintenance. In addition, new fiber optic wire upgrades and installations help our operators more reliably monitor the status of our grid and make it more secure.”
The full plan is available for viewing at ATC10YearPlan.
ATC supports STEM career pipeline at Milwaukee Academy of Science
Fence installation provides safer space for our future workforce to learn and play
Milwaukee, Wis. – While watching students with boundless energy play and listening to their happy voices, American Transmission Co. and Milwaukee Academy of Science celebrated the installation of a new playground fence supported by ATC. The company and school are partnering to provide MAS scholars opportunities to learn, play and develop the knowledge and skills for lifelong success.
“We value the partnership we have with Milwaukee Academy of Science and support the quality of education that the school provides to prepare students for higher education,” said ATC Vice President of External Affairs and Communications Greg Levesque. “When there is a need at the school, even something as seemingly simple as a fence matters to us because it makes a difference in the quality of the school environment. ATC is dedicated to STEM education and providing opportunities for students that lead to the skills needed to sustain our future workforce.”
“At ATC safety is our number one priority, and our contribution for this fence in partnership with Milwaukee Academy of Science is important to help create a safe space for the children so they can concentrate on what is important, and that is their education,” said ATC Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Mark Davis. “ATC is largely a STEM company, and graduates of the academy are part of our potential career pipeline. It would be a great thing if one of today’s four-year-old MAS students came to ATC and replaced me someday.”
MAS indicated the need for the fence in late 2021. The school wanted to enclose an area on the school grounds to be used safely for recess and outdoor learning for students. ATC answered the need with the funding necessary to complete the fence and it was installed in the summer of 2022.
“We’re fortunate to be in our seventh consecutive year of record enrollment, and with that comes the challenge of space. In particular, space for our young people to get out and play in a safe environment,” said MAS CEO Anthony McHenry. “This gift is tremendously helpful our school community to allow us to make use of some of the space that is available to us.
“ATC has been a partner of ours for many years,” McHenry continued. “And here we are growing our work together so that one day an MAS student will be an employee at ATC. I am confident of that.”
As the partnership between ATC and MAS continues to grow and flourish, so will the students who enjoy playing safely on their playground today.
To request digital images from the event, send an email to email@example.com.
Watch the event video on YouTube.
About Milwaukee Academy of Science
Milwaukee Academy of Science is a public charter school that serves over 1,400 K4-12th grade students from across the city. The school was established in 2000 by the head of the Medical College of Wisconsin and is located in Avenues West near Marquette University. The STEM-focused school aims to graduate urban students prepared to compete successfully at the postsecondary level. Visit our website at www.milwaukeeacademyofscience.org.