In 2012, two utilities proposed to send a 345-kilovolt transmission line across the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Wisconsin and extend it 50 miles south along the river. This proposed route went through an area that is home to wildlife refuges, floodplain forests, and stopover habitat for birds migrating down the Mississippi Flyway every year. In particular, the utilities’ preferred alternative would have routed the line through the middle of the Van Loon Bottoms, a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, a Nature Conservancy Priority Conservation Area, a Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative Important Bird Area, and a Wisconsin State Natural Area. The applicants argued that routing the new transmission line through the Van Loon would not harm the ecosystem and would cost less than alternative routes.
Clean Wisconsin intervened in the Public Service Commission (PSC) contested case proceeding to advocate for siting the transmission line outside the Van Loon, as well as using independent environmental monitors who would not be employees of the utilities building the project. We consulted with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, and retained a wetlands expert who analyzed and testified to the impacts of proposed construction methods and the importance of the resource. We successfully persuaded the agency to order an alternative route outside the Van Loon and that independent environmental monitors must be used to ensure minimal construction impacts on sensitive areas.