What's Current | American Transmission Co. - Part 4
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Young Gardener Activities, which includes a journal and three YouTube videos (Bug Hunt, Build a Toad Abode and Create a Pollinator Paradise)
- Tips for starting plants from seeds video by Melinda Myers
- Grow Smart® Pollinator Guide of native plants that can be printed out and taken to local garden centers
- Webinars on a variety of gardening topics presented by Melinda Myers
- 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)
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.
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.
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.