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Helicopter to be used to install bird diverters along transmission lines in Columbia, Dane, Sauk, Waupaca and Waushara counties

Work slated for first week of March

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Beginning the week of March 1, American Transmission Co. will install more than 1,800 bird diverters on the wires of five transmission lines in Columbia, Dane, Sauk, Waupaca and Waushara counties.

Using a light-duty helicopter from Winco Powerline Services, ATC’s construction partner M.J. Electric, LLC will install the bird diverters to help keep birds safe while also ensuring the reliability of the transmission system.

“The diverters increase visibility of the wires and help protect birds from contacting the transmission lines while in flight,” said Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager. “Most of the diverters will be installed over or adjacent to wetlands and bodies of water to help protect larger, heavy-bodied species that do not maneuver easily such as geese, swans, pelicans, cranes and other waterfowl.”

Local officials, along with local law enforcement, have been notified of the work. Diverters will be installed in the following locations:

  • Columbia County along portions of a 138,000-volt line (east of Portage, Wis.)
    • Within a wetland area east of County Road F and west of County Road EE
    • Over a wetland northwest of the intersection of Military and Quarry Roads
    • Within the Becker Waterfowl Production Area near Highway 22
    • Across the Fox River, north of Pardeeville and west of State Highway 44
  • Dane County along a portion of a 69,000-volt line
    • Near wetland areas running along a railroad track, starting at Dunkirk and Veterans Road and ending just past Collins Road outside of Stoughton, Wis.
  • Sauk County along a portion of a 138,000-volt line (west of Portage, Wis.)
    • South of the Pine Island State Wildlife Area, running southwest from I-90 across County Roads U and T and ending north of Back Road
  • Waupaca County along a portion of a 69,000-volt line
    • Across Hartman Lake within Hartman Creek State Park
  • Waushara County along a portion of a 69,000-volt line
    • Across the Pine River north of County Road A in Wild Rose, Wis.

Note to editors: View maps of the work area: Columbia and Sauk Counties Dane County Waupaca and Waushara Counties. Information about ATC’s avian protection program can be found here. Helicopter flight schedules may vary and are subject to change, based on weather. In the interest of safety, please refrain from stopping, viewing and photographing the work from roadways.

ATC brings home a Soup-er Bowl win!

While we could not hold our annual in-person soup and chili tasting Soup-er Bowl fundraiser event this year, American Transmission Co. employees were able to stir up some much-needed funds for food with a virtual event.

Here’s the play: we set up three different online giving events to support food banks throughout ATC’s footprint:

Employees could choose one or donate to all three.

To make the event as tasty as possible, ATC committed to match employee donations to the Soup-er Bowl.

It was a game of inches, and our employees really stepped up their game to win the company match. Together we raised $2,210, which means we are providing approximately 6,630 meals to our community members in need.

Way to go ATC, we appreciate our employees who contributed to this amazing team effort!

ATC helps Bellevue, Plymouth and Ozaukee County offset tree loss 

Two Wisconsin cities and a county park replaced trees lost to emerald ash borer infestations in 2020 thanks to grants from American Transmission Co.’s Community Planting Program.  

 The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle introduced from Asia. First detected in Wisconsin in 2008, it has since been found in more than 50 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. EAB attacks all species of ash trees, except mountain ash, which are not true ash trees. 

 The village of Bellevue used its $1,500 grant to plant shingle oak, frontier elm and dawn redwood trees within the East River Trail Arboretum, which also helped increase the village’s tree diversity. 

 The city of Plymouth used its $2,000 grant to help replace some of the 100 trees damaged by emerald ash borer infestation. The city purchased small trees in the spring and kept them in a gravel bed until fall to help increase each tree’s root mass to improve the trees’ survival rate. This approach enabled the city to stretch its funding and plant twice as many trees. The trees were planted in parks and other public spaces throughout the city.  

 The Ozaukee County Planning and Parks District used its $2,500 grant to continue restoring a warm-season prairie within Tendick Nature Park, a 125-acre county park approximately 5 miles north of Saukville. The County planted a variety of native trees – like American hornbeam, bur oak, quaking aspen and white oak – within and around the prairie restoration site to help create a savannah-like ecosystem, increase the diversity of the surrounding forest and wetland habitats, and help filter stormwater that flows from the park into the Milwaukee River. 

 Our Community Planting Program encourages and supports 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. Since 2013, ATC has awarded approximately 240 communities and organizations with funds totaling more than $425,000. 

 ATC accepts applications from July 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 helps bring school to the zoo

Last fall, American Transmission Co. contributed funds to help establish Zoo School at Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo. The program was created to address the needs of students who struggled to get access to the virtual school format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoo School is a collaboration between the Henry Vilas Zoo, the Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison School and Community Recreation, the Bayview Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns and operates an affordable housing development and community center near the zoo, and the Goodman Community Center.

In spring of 2020, when the pandemic hit and schools had to shift quickly to virtual classrooms, many students, including some in the zoo’s neighboring Bayview community, were left behind. The following summer, Henry Vilas Zoo was able to successfully put together a safe educational camp program and realized they could modify their program to safely educate students in their facilities during the regular school year. Thus, the idea for Zoo School was born.

The zoo reached out to the community to fund Zoo School and submitted a request to ATC for support. ATC approved a donation of $2,500 to support the estimated cost of one student to attend Zoo School.

Zoo School is a great success. The program has served 26 students over the course of the school year including kids from Bayview and other high needs communities. Students have enjoyed reading to the animals, unique adventures including snowshoeing on Lake Wingra and weekly field trips to nearby parks thanks to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, another zoo partner. Students are at a number of different school levels, and instructors coordinate with MMSD on virtual schedules and assignments. Two nutritious hot meals a day are provided by the Goodman Community Center. Zoo School continues today and is anticipated to continue until Madison schools reopen.

Henry Vilas Zoo Conservation Education Coordinator Jess Thompson said, “The kids have been able to keep up with their virtual schooling, and it’s been incredible to watch their progress in confidence, empathy for animals and people, and scientific inquiry skills. Some students who didn’t show up for a single virtual class in the spring are now connecting with their teachers every day and completing homework assignments.”

ATC is proud to support community efforts like the Henry Vilas Zoo School that help everyone in our community thrive and succeed, especially during these unprecedented times.

Wildlife Habitat Council awards conservation certification to ATC  

The four-acre native prairie surrounding American Transmission Co.’s Pewaukee, Wis., headquarters has been recertified as a native landscape by the Wildlife Habitat Council after meeting WHC’s strict requirements for voluntarily managing the site as a sustainable ecosystemThe prairie has been certified by WHC since 2018. 

Establishing a prairie takes years 

In 2009we transformed a field surrounding our new headquarters building and parking lot into a native grassland prairie.  

 “Establishing a native prairie like ours takes years of cultivation,” said Johanna SievewrightATC environmental project manager 

 Initially, botanists from one of our environmental partners identified native plant species suitable for the region, soil type and hydrology. They also looked for species that would provide a range of flowering times throughout the growing season for pollinators and consulted with Xerces Society, an international nonprofit organization focused on the conservation of insects and their habitats, to develop plant lists that favored pollinators. 

 The prairie was first seeded with a specially developed seed mixture and plant plugs were installedSince the initial site development, the native plant diversity has significantly increased and now provides a thriving habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

 Using fire to maintain the prairie 

While one of the benefits of native landscaping is that it requires less maintenance, that doesn’t stop non-native and invasive plant species from continually encroaching. ATC uses an integrated approach to manage the native prairie habitat. Multiple control and prevention methods have been used on invasive species within the prairie. 

 “We have to manage it proactively,” said Amy Tillman, facilities program manager“Prescribed burns are one of the best ways to do that.” 

 Prescribed burning is a common prairie management tool. In addition to thwarting invasive plants, native plants that thrive in this environment tend to regenerate after the burn as healthier plants because many of Wisconsin’s native prairie grasses and flowers developed adaptations to survive fire. Their deep roots and buds beneath the soil enable them to withstand fire, while shallow-rooted, non-native plants succumb to the heat. Fire stimulates the growth of native plants, while also returning valuable nutrients to the soil. The prairie underwent prescribed burns in 2015 and 2019.  

 Incorporating native plants into your landscaping 

A prairie may not be practical for your back yard, but you can help pollinating insects like bees and butterflies by adding just a few native prairie plants to your garden or landscaping. Wildflowers like purple coneflower, butterfly weed, and smooth blue aster will add color and provide food for bees, birds and butterflies. Prairie grasses like little bluestem and prairie dropseed can add interest to your landscaping while also providing food and shelter for pollinators. For additional suggestions, print ourGrow Smart Planting Guide or Grow Smart Pollinator Guide and bring it to your local garden center.