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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 atc-GrowSmart.com.

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. 

Cardinal-Hickory Creek co-owners file joint statement to PSCW to rescind and reopen project’s CPCN

JOINT STATEMENT

Utilities file request with Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to rescind and reopen Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project

ATC and ITC Midwest on June 28 filed a request with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) asking the PSCW to rescind and reopen the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project. Dairyland Power Cooperative has also filed its support for the request.

ATC and ITC Midwest discovered information last week that indicates former Commissioner Mike Huebsch engaged in regular communications over several years using the Signal software application with other individuals, including an ATC employee and a former independent contractor for ITC and while the CPCN application was pending. While we have no information that these Signal communications were related to the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Project or the CPCN docket, the utilities are making this request to rescind and reopen the docket.

ATC and ITC Midwest are regulated utilities engaged in building critical public infrastructure projects and reliably transmitting electricity. Like the public at large, we have a shared interest in preserving transparency, fairness and integrity of all regulatory and judicial proceedings.

“The individuals involved in this situation have maintained longstanding personal relationships with each other; however, we are aware this information raises concerns about one of the Commissioners who granted approval of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Project,” said ATC President and CEO, Mike Rowe. “We understand the speculation this presents, which is also why we have made this unique request to the PSCW and are sharing this information with our employees, our stakeholders and Dane County Circuit Court.”

“The co-owners are committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards in all of our work, including proceedings before the PSCW,” said ITC Midwest President, Dusky Terry. “We are asking the PSCW to rescind and reopen the Cardinal-Hickory Creek docket because we are committed to integrity and transparency in the regulatory process.”

This issue came to light during legal discovery in the ongoing Dane County Circuit Court proceeding regarding the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project. We are working to retrieve these communications but given the encrypted nature of the Signal application and its retention settings, we are presently uncertain whether these messages can be fully recovered.

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project is a 102-mile, 345,000-volt electric transmission line that will provide a vital link to the future of our region’s renewable energy developments. This transmission line is critical to ensuring a cleaner, safer and more affordable energy future for the state. Its construction and operability will reduce energy costs, improve the reliability and flexibility of the state’s transmission system, and help support the interconnection of renewable generation in the Upper Midwest. Currently, nearly 10 gigawatts of renewable generation are dependent upon its construction – enough to power seven million homes with clean energy.

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. 

ATC accepting applications for community planting and pollinator habitat programs

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Today through Sept. 30, 2021, American Transmission Co. is accepting applications for planting projects in communities in our service area through the annual Community Planting and Pollinator Habitat grant programs.

“These programs enable us to encourage and support communities to plant trees and vegetation that will beautify communities in a way that doesn’t compromise the safety and reliability of the electric transmission system,” said ATC Vegetation Management Manager, Michelle Stokes. “While we can’t allow trees or tall‑growing vegetation in our rights‑of‑way, we understand that they are an important part of the landscape.”

The Community Planting Program provides financial support to eligible cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes in ATC’s service area for planting projects on public property. Program funds can be used to plant trees and other tall-growing vegetation outside the transmission line rights-of-way. ATC has awarded more than 265 communities with funds totaling nearly $500,000 since 2013.

The Pollinator Habitat Program provides funding for site preparation; purchasing seed, plugs or plants; labor and installation; or other activities to establish quality pollinator habitat. Unlike the Community Planting Program, the Pollinator Habitat Program promotes planting low-growing vegetation within a transmission line right-of-way.

“Loss of habitat is one of the main reasons for the recent decline in pollinator populations,” said ATC Environmental Project Manager, Johanna Sievewright. “The Pollinator Habitat Program promotes vegetation that is both compatible with our vegetation management practices and it provides habitat for pollinators, which use the utility corridor as a flight path.”

To qualify for either program, applicants must commit that all current and future planting plans and urban forestry activities near high-voltage electric transmission lines will comply with ATC’s maintenance standards. Cities, villages, towns, counties and tribes within ATC’s service area are eligible to apply for funding through the Community Planting Program. The Pollinator Habitat Program also 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-profit organizations or public land managers).

Applications for the Community Planting Program and Pollinator Habitat Program will be accepted through Sept. 30, and award recipients will be selected and notified by the end of the calendar year. Awards for both programs range from $100 to $5,000. Additional information and online program applications can be found at atc-GrowSmart.com.