What's Current | American Transmission Co. - Part 8
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.
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 ecosystem. The prairie has been certified by WHC since 2018.
Establishing a prairie takes years
In 2009, we 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 Sievewright, ATC 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 installed. Since 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 our Grow Smart Planting Guide or Grow Smart Pollinator Guide and bring it to your local garden center.
José Delgado, American Transmission Co.’s first President and CEO, passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2021, after suffering a massive stroke a week prior. ATC employees mourn his passing and have his family, friends and the many people he touched throughout his life in our thoughts and prayers.
Those who were fortunate enough to work with Delgado knew him as an inspirational leader who was welcoming, enthusiastic, compassionate and honest. He was vibrant and engaging, and you felt his presence when he walked into a room.
Delgado oversaw the creation of ATC and served as President and Chief Executive Officer of ATC from Jan. 1, 2001, until April 2009 when he became Executive Chairman of the Board of ATC. He retired from ATC on February 28, 2010, and after retiring, continued his involvement in public service activities, electric industry issues and countless industry and corporate boards.
Delgado spent the 27 years prior to ATC at Wisconsin Electric Power Co., beginning his career as an electrical engineer and ending as vice president of electric system operations when he was named to lead the formation of ATC in late 1999. At Wisconsin Electric he worked in the construction, start up and management of fossil power plants. He led the planning, engineering and construction functions and ended up managing the system operations and generation dispatch activities.
The electric transmission industry was Delgado’s passion, he was always striving to make it better. He was the obvious choice to be CEO of the nation’s first multi-state transmission only utility and was committed to making the business model work. He was a visionary and a strong leader to those first employees who took the leap of faith to join this new company and made them believe that ATC would be successful. Delgado took significant risks and was committed to overcoming them and putting ATC on the map.
“Without José’s leadership, ATC would not be the same company it is today,” said President and CEO Mike Rowe. “His approach fostered innovation, teamwork and an entrepreneurial culture that still exists here. We have greatly benefited from the work he did to set us up for success.”
Delgado believed in working together as an industry and led the development of the North American Transmission Forum to improve the whole industry. He cared about people, the community and education, and served on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents since 2014.
Delgado was a great man who gave so much to our industry and his community, he will always be honored and remembered well at ATC.
American Transmission Co. and its construction partner, M.J. Electric LLC, recently installed five nesting poles at the north end of the 80-acre Ashwaubomay Park in Ashwaubenon, Wis.
The poles were installed near the confluence of Ashwaubomay Creek and the Fox River. Each pole contains three nesting platforms, which are installed at different angles to mirror the offset tree branches herons and egrets prefer.
“We’re thrilled to add these nesting platforms to Ashwaubomay Park to help further increase avian use and wildlife habitat in the Fox Cities area,” said Rex Mehlberg, director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the village of Ashwaubenon. “We’ve seen great blue herons and great egrets in the area and hope that this will entice them to raise their young here.”
Great blue herons and great egrets nest colonially near creeks, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Their group of nests is referred to as a rookery based upon the colonial nests of the Eurasian rook, a common bird like a crow that makes a “rook” sound. Rookeries are large, often containing several hundred nests that are used year after year. A rookery location is chosen for its access to food and isolation from predators.
The large grayish-blue great blue heron n is the most common heron species in Wisconsin. The large snow-white great egret is considered threatened in Wisconsin. Both species return in the spring to breed and raise their young before departing for their warmer winter homes in the fall.
The nesting platform installation was made possible with part of the PCB clean-up funding for the Fox River. The Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant provided matching funds to enhance avian and other wildlife use of the park, including developing fish spawning habitats, invasive species removal and the installation of nesting platforms.
ATC donated the steel bases, wooden poles and nesting platforms. M.J. Electric donated the lumber for the nesting platforms and the labor and equipment to install the platforms. Click here to watch a recap of the installation.
American Transmission Co. is seeking college students for summer 2021 internships in operations training and development, cybersecurity, safety/emergency preparedness, transmission planning and more. Our paid internships help students gain professional experience and prepare for a career in the electric utility industry.
Our student employees can apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations, and experience what it takes to operate the transmission grid that helps to keep the lights on for millions of energy users. We also keep in contact with our interns after graduation and keep them in mind for future open positions.
In summer 2020, ATC welcomed 15 interns remotely due to COVID-19. The interns worked part-time and as in previous years, participated in volunteer activities with United Way, although this year’s volunteer opportunities were virtual. The program included many virtual activities tailored to optimize the interns’ remote working experiences and help them stay connected and engaged. The onboarding program included a work-from-home ergonomics session and virtual substation and operations center tours.
Brandon Dobrowski attends the University of Wisconsin—Platteville where he’s pursuing a degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in power and controls. He interned last summer in substation services and had great things to say about ATC’s company culture.
“My first impression of ATC was how well this company was run and how amazing the people are that work for ATC,” he said. “Every person I have met with and spoken to are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever engaged with. If I have a question on something, there are multiple people that are more than willing to help me and guide me down the right path.”
Visit ATC’s Careers page to view and apply for current internship opportunities.