Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Xcel Energy seeks to upgrade power line along state trail

Weekly News Article Published: January 22, 2013 by the Central Office

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. - Xcel Energy is planning to rebuild eight miles of existing 115-kilovolt transmission line between the Jim Falls substation and the Hydro Lane substation at Lake Wissota.

Project map.
Proposed transmission line easement.

For six of these miles the line runs parallel with the Old Abe State Trail. Xcel Energy has initiated negotiations with the state Department of Natural Resources for an easement along the trail. The DNR is seeking public comment on the proposal.

>Existing poles
Existing poles to be replaced.
Click on photo for larger size

The existing steel transmission poles, or lattice structures, are located on private property, on average 52 feet from the center of the trail. The proposal would place taller, brown steel poles about 15 feet closer to the trail and within the state's right-of-way.

Xcel Energy officials said no major work has been completed on the line since it was originally built in 1922. The project is necessary, company officials said, to strengthen the reliability of the regional electricity system and improve safety.

Because this is a major transmission line it must remain in service while the replacement line is built to avoid prolonged power outages and meet national reliability standards. Once the new line is in service, the existing line will be removed. This means the replacement line must be built to one side or the other. Moving the new line to the side away from the trail would involve significant impacts to private property and to the Lake Wissota Golf Course.

Negotiations with the DNR include Xcel Energy-funded improvements to the trail, including the removal of invasive plant species and landscaping with new vegetation to provide visual screening and improved wildlife habitat. Additional improvements could include park benches and educational signs.

Proposed pole replacements.
Proposed pole replacements.
WDNR Photo

The Old Abe State Trail, built on abandoned railroad grade, is a cooperative effort between the State of Wisconsin and Chippewa County. The paved 20-mile trail connects Lake Wissota State Park, near Chippewa Falls, and Brunet Island State Park, near Cornell to the north. Plans call for it to eventually join the Chippewa River and Red Cedar state trails.

Trail users along the six-mile stretch under negotiation are familiar with the large lattice structures and power lines beside the trail. At their base, the lattice structures encompass 200 square feet. The new "weathering" steel poles proposed by Xcel Energy would be 35 feet taller, placed on concrete foundations of about 40 square feet.

"By locating in the state's right-of-way, we minimize all impacts to private landowners while significantly improving the visual impact of the existing line," said Matt McFarlane, who works on siting and land rights for Xcel Energy.

While the new poles will be, on average, 37 feet from the center of the trail, the distance of separation will vary. DNR park officials said under the current design the nearest pole to the trail would be about 27 feet from the center of the trail.

The Old Abe State Trail was partially funded with federal Land & Water Conservation Funds. This proposal will require final approval from both the DNR and the National Park Service.

The proposed project is not anticipated to result in significant adverse environmental effects. The DNR has made a preliminary determination that neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement will be required for this action.

Written comments on the proposed project will be accepted through Feb.12. and can be mailed to Cameron Bump, DNR parks and recreation specialist, 1300 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire, WI 54701, or sent by email to cameron.bump@wisconsin.gov. Bump can be reached by phone at 715-839-2786.

Individuals with questions or concerns can also contact McFarlane at 715-737-2434 or matthew.j.mcfarlane@xcelenergy.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Cameron Bump, DNR district trail coordinator, 715-839-2786; Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683; or Xcel Energy media line, 715-737-2565