Seven years ago, Madison residents Amy Edge and Jack Sayre bought three wooded acres in Iowa County, thinking it would be their rural haven.
“It’s our dream land,” Edge said.
But the couple are not so sure anymore, now that their property in Highland is in one of the possible corridors being studied for construction of a high-voltage transmission line.
If it’s eventually chosen by the utility developers and approved by regulators, their property “is gone,” Edge said.
Sayre and Edge were among 64 people who attended a public meeting on the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek project Thursday evening at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton.
The 90- to 135-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line would connect the Cardinal substation in the town of Middleton to the Hickory Creek substation in Dubuque County.
American Transmission Co., of Pewaukee; ITC Midwest, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Dairyland Power Cooperative, of La Crosse, are the developers. Estimated cost: $500 million.
Two prospective routes have been identified. One follows Highway 18-151; the other cuts a new corridor, straight west, between Highway 18-151 and Highway 14.
The latter route slices through the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, with hills, rivers and streams untouched by glaciers.
Edge said he is upset that huge transmission towers could disturb the area’s natural beauty. “The Driftless Area, as a whole, shouldn’t have this happen,” he said.
The utility companies looking to build the big transmission line say it will improve electric reliability, provide economic benefits and connect to renewable power.
“As somebody who came of age during the energy crisis of the early 1970s ... for me to stand against something sold as good because it brings in wind power is appalling to me,” said Amy Noble, of Madison. But she said she is not convinced the line is needed to hook up to wind farms.
Noble’s family has owned 230 acres in a valley between Spring Green and Dodgeville since 1961. “I grew up there,” Noble said, ticking off weddings and deaths marked at the rural homestead.
If the transmission line chops through her family’s acreage, “my refuge is desecrated,” Noble said. “I’m willing to sacrifice for the greater good but I don’t trust that that’s the case with this.”
Earlene Laudin and her family left Madison in 1995 to build their home on a 26-acre site north of Barneveld, where deer and wild turkeys roam and walnut and hickory trees abound. It is also in the potential transmission corridor.
“I’d like to start thinking about building solar and wind power here instead of trying to bring up Iowa’s power,” Laudin said.
Thursday’s meeting was the fourth in four days, drawing a total of 223 people, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.
Dennis Rankin, environmental protection specialist, based in Washington, D.C., said the agency will issue a report looking at the project’s need, potential alternatives and the Driftless Area.
Comments, due Jan. 6, 2017, can be emailed to: comments@CardinalHickoryCreekEIS.us or mailed to: SWCA Environmental Consultants; Attn: Cardinal-Hickory Creek EIS; 200 Bursca Dr; Suite 207; Bridgeville, PA 15017.