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What's Current | American Transmission Co. - Part 30

Storm restoration on ATC system complete as of July 25

American Transmission Co. has restored its final system outage following severe storms that ripped through central and northern Wisconsin July 19 and 20, causing more than 20 widespread system outages and eliminating power to nearly 150,000 customers.

Extreme winds referred to as a “derecho” were reportedly more than 80 miles per hour in some places, toppling trees throughout the region. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency and the Wisconsin Army National Guard was deployed to hard-hit areas.

ATC and our partners worked tirelessly on damage assessment and restoration. Numerous aerial patrols were conducted on 500 system miles to look for damage and risks.

For ATC, follow-up work is in progress, mostly related to leaning vegetation. Our vegetation management team is continuing patrols of the transmission system in the storm region to identify any damaged off-right-of-way vegetation that could become a threat.

All operators and crews committed to safety while working to restore power as soon as possible. The work was dangerous with fallen trees, gnarled branches and rough terrain, broken poles and downed wires.

“The damage covered a wide geographic area and multiple utilities were involved, so it was important that while we wanted to move swiftly to get the power back on for our customers, we worked together to make sure everyone was working safely,” said Jared Winters, ATC director of asset maintenance and commissioning.

Madison substation cleanup and cause investigation underway

Last updated July 22, 2019 at 4:40 p.m.

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Around 7:30 a.m. on Friday, July 19, an explosion and fire at the joint ATC/Madison Gas & Electric Blount Street Substation and East Campus Substation in Madison caused an ATC 69-kV/138-kV transformer to fail. The specific cause of the fires are not yet known.

By 8:50 a.m. on July 19, the fires at Blount Street and East Campus substations in Madison were contained, and no injuries were reported. We also worked with MGE to restore power to the Madison area as quickly and safely as possible.

Following the fire at the Blount Street Substation in Madison on Friday, the Department of Natural Resources has been on site coordinating with ATC and our environmental contractors during cleanup activities. The impact of the fire was largely contained within the substation. Over the weekend, the remaining insulating fluid from the damaged transformer was removed, and some fluid was recovered from outside the substation. Overall cleanup within the substation continues. The second fire at the East Campus Substation resulted in minor damage.

An ATC project team has been formed to determine the condition of the damaged substation equipment, make necessary repairs and investigate the cause. Members of the team are on site today. As previously communicated, ATC believes the fire is related to an electrical failure. We do not believe it was related to outdoor temperatures, which were around 80 degrees at the time of the fire early Friday morning.

ATC conducts routine inspections and maintenance on all of our equipment. Inspections were performed in the Blount Street Substation on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. As part of those inspections, we identified one component within the substation that we felt required additional review, and we made plans to analyze further this week. That component is part of our investigation. We do not want to draw any conclusions until we review all possibilities. Our goal is to determine the cause with reasonable certainty before the end of the month.

As reported Friday afternoon, other transmission infrastructure in the greater Madison area is sufficient to accommodate electric load while repairs are being made at the Blount Street Substation.

ATC thanks Madison’s Fire and Police departments for the quick response to maintain public safety. We also thank officials from the city of Madison and the community for their patience as we worked with Madison Gas & Electric to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

We will continue to provide information to the media via news releases, Twitter, and our website. We ask the media to continue to work with us to provide the most accurate information to the public.

Lightning myths and facts to keep you safe in severe weather

Hot and humid summer days can often produce violent thunderstorms. New transmission lines are built with a grounded shield wire along the top of the poles, above the conductors, to protect the line from lightning. Like trees and other tall objects, transmission poles are likely to intercept lightning strikes, but they do not attract lightning.

Below are a few myths and facts about lightning, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10 to 15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch the individual, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It’s perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give him or her first aid.

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties.

ATC partners with Root-Pike WIN to restore 46 acres along Lamparek Ditch

American Transmission Co. has teamed up with Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network to help restore a portion of the Lamparek Ditch in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Fifty native species will be planted in the new corridor, helping to reduce runoff of pollutants, create wildlife habitat and increase flood water storage capacity for the watershed. The article below is an excerpt from a recent Root-Pike WIN newsletter.

American Transmission Co. is working with Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network to help restore a portion of the Lamparek Ditch, a critical tributary of the impaired North Branch of the Pike River in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Restoration efforts along this historically degraded and mostly cultivated riparian corridor will aim to promote regional clean water and ecosystem goals.

ATC will provide funds to purchase and plant native vegetation along a new 1.2-mile transmission line corridor between County Trunk Highway H and 90th Street. Enhanced seeding and plantings of native, floristically diverse vegetation will help reduce runoff of pollutants, create wildlife habitat, and increase flood water storage capacity for the watershed.

“ATC understands ‘win-win’ and sets a great example for corporate environmental stewardship,” said Dave Giordano, executive director of Root-Pike WIN. “They listened to the needs in our Pike River Watershed Restoration Plan and quickly stepped up with a much richer – and more expensive – planting plan. Having a native plant mix with greater diversity translates into reduced sheet runoff, better groundwater infiltration, improved habitat for pollinators, and a richer environmental connection point to the North Branch. These corridors are essential to the current and future health of the rapidly-developing Wisconn Valley watersheds.”

The diverse seeding and planting will include a mixture of more than 50 species of tall grass prairie, wet prairie, sedge meadow and submergent aquatic species. Vegetation will include an abundance of flowering plants with bloom times scattered throughout the year to support pollinators during their active seasons. The corridor will be approximately 320-feet wide.

Claude Lois, project director for the Village of Mount Pleasant, commented, “The Village of Mount Pleasant works vigorously with our community partners to protect and enhance our environmental assets. We are pleased to be working with community partners to explore ways to rehabilitate and improve the water quality and natural habitat of the Lamparek Ditch as part of the new development in that area.”

In total, ATC has committed to restoring 46 acres of a previously dominated agricultural setting to native vegetation – 30 acres of new transmission line right-of-way and 16 acres of new substation property along the north side of the tributary. ATC will monitor and maintain the planted areas through 2020. To keep the restored areas resilient long-term, Root-Pike WIN and ATC will seek additional partnerships with other stakeholders along the newly-created and enhanced greenspace corridor.

Notes from the field – Discoveries in Wisconsin’s Desert (part 2)

American Transmission Co. 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 Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager.


It was 10 a.m. on May 14 in Western Wisconsin, and I had already encountered a snake species that took me 41 years to first see in the wild. Success!

But was there more to come? Besides timber rattlesnakes, there was at least one additional “lifer” species of snake that I knew inhabited the land I was on, so before I could continue on to my day’s tasks, I sought to peruse the rocky, sparsely grassed, cliff-side environment that provided this species’ preferred habitat. (Note: “lifer” is a term that herpers, birders, and other wildlife enthusiasts use to describe species that they have encountered for the first time in their lives … )

Many snakes use protective cover to stay concealed during the day. It’s their way to avoid predators, as well as to help regulate their body temperatures. Cover can take many forms; old logs, branches, rocks and even man-made debris like old boards, large pieces of sheet metal and other trash. I began gently flipping hillside rocks, and it wasn’t long before I found my second new species of the day, the prairie ringneck.

The prairie ringneck is a diminutive but gorgeously colored, secretive snake that poses no threat unless you are an earthworm or slug, which comprise most of its diet. A most striking feature of this snake is how the yellow on its belly gives way to bright orange, then red as it reaches the tail. When feeling threatened, the ringneck will wind its tail into a corkscrew, exposing the red in an attempt to dissuade predators. In about 10 minutes of rock-flipping on my way to the car, I was lucky to turn up four or five of these beauties, snap a few pics, and carefully replace both the rocks and snakes before moving on.

It was time to be on my way to visit my project sites. After visiting the first project site just down the road to get a feel for the surrounding habitat, I would make my way to an active construction project to observe the removal of protective matting.

As I arrived, I noticed a single mat, a good distance away from the closest transmission structure, floating in the unusual amount of standing water in the area. A casualty of recent spring flooding, it would be retrieved as soon as conditions would allow. For now, however, it was providing the perfect opportunity for about a dozen or so painted turtles to take in the suns rays, at least half of which would scatter before I could snap a photo.

This would prove to be my last animal encounter for the day, as I spent its remainder cruising the project area while noting the incredible progress that was being made from west to east as the line is being rebuilt. It always amazes me how quickly it seems the construction phase of transmission line rebuilds go, given the years of planning and preparation that go into ensuring that everything goes well. In this case, it is apparent that all that preparation was worth the effort. Before long, this project will be complete, and I’ll move on to another one. Until then, I will continue to look forward to the opportunity to visit what I feel to be one of the loveliest parts of this state.

Michael Warwick is a senior environmental project manager at ATC. Prior to joining ATC he worked as an environmental consultant conducting tree and plant surveys, wetland delineation, GIS, project planning, community planning and permitting. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a focus on waterway monitoring and studies, and wetland and waterway permit reviews.

Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and environmental sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently certified by Wisconsin DNR as an Endangered Resources Reviewer and is a member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) Outreach Committee. He volunteers his time guiding annual natural resources-based educational field trips for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin