CENTERVILLE, Wis. — Richard Daffinson is running out of time.
The Holmen, Wis., resident is sitting on what he describes as a generous offer from a private entity looking to buy his 80-acre farm, but is hesitant to finalize a deal. Before he sells the land that’s been in his family for years, he wants to know whether or not to expect three high voltage power line poles, part of the proposed Capx2020 power line project, to be installed on his property.
“It’s amazing what they can come in and do,” Daffinson said.
Daffinson was one of about 50 people who spoke at a packed public hearing Wednesday on the Wisconsin portion of the CapX2020 project. The hearing, held by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, was one of four held this week in Wisconsin and marked the last chance for residents to have their say on the project before the commission decides on a final route in June.
Members of the Citizens Energy Task Force, a group that opposes the project, said they plan to request an additional public hearing. The commission’s attorney Cynthia Smith said it was unlikely to happen.
“I’d encourage people to follow the process, that will ensure their comments are heard,” Smith said.
The commission is considering nine routes for the line, according to Grant Stevenson, project manager with Xcel Energy. CapX officials have focused on the shortest path, called the Q1-Highway 35 route, which would stretch 43 miles from Alma to Holmen and include about 250 poles.
“It utilizes a lot of existing corridors, and the shorter routes affect fewer people,” Stevenson said.
Not everyone is as pleased with the proposal, particularly Holmen residents, who worry about the line’s proximity to Holmen High School, among other issues.
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“We’re not opposed to the power line, we are just opposed to it running through our village,” said Holmen village president Nancy Proctor.
“The need for this power line is debatable,” said Tim Medinger, president of the Holmen school board.
The commission has echoed that concern. Its final environmental review concluded that it was unclear whether there would be sufficient population growth in the area to justify the projected increase in demand for electricity.
Most speakers at the hearing opposed the line, citing concerns about aesthetics, health, property values, and the regional need for additional power.
“The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is to be cherished as a unique resource,” said Jean Galasinski, president of the Trempealeau County Tourism Council, referring to the state Hwy. 35 section of the 10-state byway.
Other speakers expressed concern that the project is pitting area residents against one another.
“It’s kind of un-American to say, don’t do it to me, do it to my neighbor,” said Ken Luchterhand of Franklin, Wis.
CapX2020 is a consortium of Xcel Energy, La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and nine other utilities in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin. The proposed line would extend about 150 miles from Hampton, Minn., to the La Crosse, Wis., area, crossing the Mississippi River at Alma and ending at a new substation near Holmen, Wis. Construction would begin in 2013, with the line in service by 2015.