Oconto County wants to intervene in power line relocation

Project could involve some taking of county forest
Kevin Murphy

MADISON — Oconto County wants to intervene in American Transmission Co.’s request to rebuild a power line paralleling U.S. highways 41 and 141 from near Green Bay to a substation near Pioneer Memorial Park.

The estimated $47 million project upgrades 21 miles of power line from 69 kilovolts to 138 kilovolts that were installed in 1910. It also would relocate a substation near Sobieski on County Road S in the town of Little Suamico, and require an easement to hang overhead lines entering the substation south of Pioneer Memorial Park from the south.

The possible taking of county forest land in connection with the easements prompted county Corporation Counsel Beth Ellingson on Nov. 15 to seek to intervene in the Public Service Commission’s deciding the case.

The Sobieski substation would be relocated 600 feet east on County Road S from its present location. The move is being requested by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. in a separate case before the PSC.

Additional right of way or an easement could be required along East Stiles Tower Road south of Pioneer Memorial Park and north of County Road I.

“We may have an interest in the county forest land, in that we harvest timber from those lands … and the revenue is very important,” Ellingson said.

Because the rebuild project would occur largely within existing right of way, Ellingson said the county’s involvement could be minimal.

The PSC notified the county, as an affected property owner, about the ATC’s request to rebuild the power line it calls the Bayport to Pioneer Rebuild Project.

If granted intervenor status, the county can merely monitor the PSC’s reviewing of ATC’s application and data it submits or, submit testimony to help influence the process.

At this point, Monty Brink, the county’s Forestry and Parks administrator, said he wants to “stay in the loop.”

“We don’t know what they’re looking for, that’s why we signed up,” Brink said.

The Oconto County Forest is composed of approximately 43,345 acres, with 15 forest cover types, according to the county’s website. Brink noted four tracts of approximately 40 acres each are located near the power line.

Commercial logging remains active in the county as it let 24 timber harvest contracts county wide in May, Brink said.

ATC had until Nov. 20 to oppose the county’s request for intervenor status; otherwise it should be granted in short order, according to PSC spokesman Matt Sweeney.

Wisconsin Public Service has unofficially proposed relocating the Sobieski substation but hasn’t yet submitted a request with the PSC, Sweeney said.

The PSC won’t hold a public hearing on ATC’s request because it won’t require much new right of way or easements.

ATC expects the PSC approve the rebuild by the end of the year and for construction to begin late next year and the new line to be operational in 2020.