The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Xcel looks to reroute lines in Iron County


August 29, 2019


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Hurley — In what they called the first step in the process, several Xcel Energy officials provided the Iron County Board of Supervisors with a broad outline of a proposal to reroute transmission lines through northern Iron County Tuesday.

The power lines in question run between Ironwood and Ashland, Wisconsin, crossing U.S. 2 near the Saxon Pump substation before crossing the highway again on the Bad River reservation.

“(The lines) are nearing the end of their lifespans and they present some challenges for us, primarily access — they’re very difficult to access in both Ashland and Iron County,” said Mike BeBeau, a community services manager with Xcel. “What we’re looking at right now … (is) maybe rerouting these transmission lines, getting them close to a highway corridor for instance.”

The company has already met with Ashland County officials, they said, and is planning to hold a series of public information meetings around the area in October.

Matt McFarlane, with the company’s Eau Claire office, said the project involves two elevated lines — a 88-kV line built in 1952 that was described as being in “very poor condition,” and a 115-kV line built in 1976 and described as getting to the end of its lifespan — that would be combined into a single project.

Xcel wants to reroute the lines, each of which is approximately 35 miles — because approximately 90% of the existing lines are deemed inaccessible or difficult to access due primarily to running over rivers, wetlands and other difficult terrain.

When the lines were built, McFarlane said it was most economical to build directly from Point A to Point B. Now, he explained, environmental impact and other factors need to be taken into consideration. This is why they try to take advantage of existing corridors — such as those used by other utilities or even roads.

“Unfortunately, in this part of northern Wisconsin, there’s not a lot of good east-to-west corridors,” McFarlane said, mentioning U.S. 2, Wisconsin 13 and Wisconsin 77 as some of the only options.

Going forward, Xcel hopes to file an application with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for the project by this time next year, according to McFarlane, with approval hopefully coming sometime in 2021.

“The commission will ultimately decide the final design for the project. So they’ll dictate whether we rebuild these lines all on one pole with multiple circuits or we build them on separate poles,” McFarlane said.

Under the timeline laid out Tuesday, construction wouldn’t start until 2024.

“So we’re about five years away from actually hitting the ground and doing construction,” he told the board. “And we anticipate that taking a year, if not two years.”

The company would begin removing the old lines and letting the corridors return to a more natural setting following the completion of the project, according to the presention.


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