Energizing Your Future

Facility relocation: a resource for municipal developments near transmission lines

Planning a new road, parking lot or other development near high-voltage electric transmission lines?

If your municipality is planning a development where facilities owned by American Transmission Co. exist, it’s essential you talk to ATC as early as possible, by contacting us at We want your project to be successful, completed on time and above all – safe. Talking to ATC representatives early on can potentially spare you months of project planning time, and save you upwards of millions of dollars.

For a thorough review to be conducted, you will need to submit a complete set of your plans to ATC that includes grading, utility, landscaping and lighting proposals. By submitting your project plans to ATC, we will help determine if moving an ATC facility is necessary or feasible. This review process typically takes four weeks.

What are ATC facilities?

ATC owns and operates the high-voltage transmission system in portions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. The transmission lines in ATC’s service area carry high-voltage electricity from where the energy is produced to where it’s needed. ATC owns and operates both overhead and underground transmission lines throughout the region, and these lines can operate at 69,000 to 345,000 kilovolts.

The majority of ATC’s facilities are above ground on overhead transmission lines. These poles and wires are typically taller in height than lower-voltage distribution lines from your local utility. Engineering, siting, material acquisition and construction to move an overhead line can take more than a year to accomplish. 

ATC’s underground transmission lines require special consideration for any planned construction. Some high-voltage transmission lines are contained within a high-pressure, fluid-filled coated steel pipe. Other underground transmission lines are direct-buried, while others are encased within concrete duct packages. You don’t have to expose or contact an underground line to cause damage. ATC’s underground transmission system is complex; therefore relocation for an underground system can typically take more than two years.

ATC will actively work with you to accommodate joint use of our transmission corridors

However, any uses that interfere with, obstruct, restrict or endanger the use of our facilities will not be permitted. ATC has the right to construct, replace, operate, maintain, reconstruct and access the transmission lines in a safe and timely manner.

Types of municipal projects that may impact ATC facilities

There are many compatible uses for the land that houses ATC’s transmission lines. Some uses may not be compatible, so it’s always important to check with ATC. A few of these developments are:

– All residential subdivisions, commercial developments and road projects.

–  Parking lots, roads and driveways are generally allowed within ATC transmission corridors, but plans must be reviewed to ensure that the grade change will not impact our line clearances or access. 

– Retention or detention ponds restrict access to the transmission facilities and should be planned for an area outside of the transmission  corridor.

– Electric, gas, telephone, cable TV, water, sewer and other underground lines in the transmission corridor must be reviewed by ATC to ensure compatibility.

– Street lighting, sheds and septic systems are typically not allowed within the transmission corridor. 

– Fences that cross the entire width of the transmission corridor must have a double wide gate installed for access, with an ATC lock in the locking chain. 

Planning your project near ATC transmission lines

Construction and soil considerations are important to keep in mind when planning your project near ATC’s transmission lines.

Construction considerations

  • The National Electric Safety Code requires that transmission lines maintain certain clearances to the ground, based on the voltage of the line. Objects, buildings and recreational equipment placed underneath or too close to the transmission lines pose serious safety concerns and could be a violation of required clearances. 
  • Storage and handling of materials beneath overhead transmission lines must comply with Wisconsin Administrative Code and National Electric Code requirements and may not obstruct access to the transmission lines and structures. 
  • Traffic barriers may be required on all sides of the transmission structure that are exposed to traffic or snow plowing operations.
  • Purchasers should inspect a property before buying it to determine whether an electric transmission line corridor affects it. Some existing ATC corridors are not being fully utilized, and have the capacity to accommodate additional lines and equipment at a future date.

Soil and excavation considerations

  • Transmission structures rely on the weight of the earth for stability. Grading too close or around the base of a tower can cause a structure to become unstable and potentially fall.
  • Changes in grade under the wires can impact the required clearance from wire to ground. Temporary or permanent mounding of soil (or snow) is not allowed.
  • Grade changes can cause overheating or make an overhead or underground line vulnerable to future damage.
  • Staging heavy equipment on bare ground over an underground transmission line can cause soil compaction and sinking, which also can damage the line.
  • During excavation near the underground transmission lines, ATC requires a representative to be present at all times.

Did you know?

  1. The Wisconsin Administrative Code prohibits new homes from being built under power lines. 
  2. The underlying land rights determine the party responsible for relocating an ATC facility.
  3. Before you dig, always remember to call 811 to reach your local one-call center.

Maintain contact

When construction plans require work near overhead or underground transmission lines, please email us at Transmission facility relocation takes a great deal of time, and the cost for facility relocation can be substantial. Contact us early in your planning process so that your project can be successful, completed on time, and above all – safe.