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Power Line Debate Postponed for a Week

Discussion and any action on Walnut Road route through western Wauwatosa now expected to take place July 17 prior to regular Common Council meeting.

A discussion of the route of one of two new power lines in west Tosa – possibly the last public discussion – has been delayed a week, city officials said Monday.

After a recommendation from the Community Development Committee was put off at its last meeting, on June 26, it was expected to revisited and likely acted on at the committee's next meeting, at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

But Ald. Jeff Roznowski, the committee chairman, said Monday that the power line discussion had been taken off this week's agenda and would be dealt with the following Tuesday, July 17, before the regular meeting of the full council.

The debate is now planned for a meeting of the Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. the following week, prior to the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting of the Common Council, Roznowski said.

"Depending on what the Committee of the Whole does, it could be taken up by the council the same night," Roznowski said, "although I can't say that it will."

Roznowski said it was his understanding that public comment woud be allowed at the committee meeting. Public comment is not heard at meetings of the full council.

Roznowski said that City Attorney Alan Kesner asked for the delay because he was still awaiting information from consulting engineers and American Transmission Co. (ATC) on alternate proposals.

Roznowski said Kesner told him the information being sought was likely to be forthcoming no sooner than Tuesday and that he didn't think that would give staff and council members time to form a meaningful discussion.

Roznowski said he did not know what sort of specific information Kesner was seeking from the engineers, and Kesner could not be reached for comment.

But at the June 26 Community Development meeting, a Walnut Road resident asked that a route along West North Avenue be explored. Kesner promised that it would be looked into, although he said then that two weeks might not provide enough time for a full engineering analysis of that idea.

Compromise on a modified Walnut Road route

On June 26, Kesner was seeking a recommendation from the council favoring a route that is, in part, from North 120th Street to North 116th Street.

because, in February, the Common Council , as well as an alternate route on overhead towers along Underwood Creek Parkway.

However, the original alternative route proposed by ATC for Walnut Road would have placed the lines in the city and utility right-of-way in the front yards of those living on the north side of the street – permanently scarring the neighborhood because new trees would not have been allowed on top of the buried line.

Kesner has said that, in the long run and working with other stakeholders, or "intervenors," to oppose ATC's preferred alternatives, the modified Walnut Road route proved to be the most viable and likely to be accepted by the Public Service Commission, which has the final say.

Kesner has also made clear that Wauwatosa and its intervenor-partners need to not just oppose ATC's routes but must propose some preferred route, hopefully in full consensus.

In Kesner's view, Wauwatosa achieved a good compromise when the other entities agreed to support it in burying the lines under the street instead of in resident's yards.

That modification of the route adds to the final cost of the project because it would be more expensive to trench through and replace pavement than it would be to remove trees and excavate though yards.

Consensus needed, city attorney says

Adding expense is a tricky proposition for all, because the PSC is bound to give priority consideration to the cost of any project to all rate-payers, and therefore also is bound to consider the cheapest route available.

Kesner has said he believes that best chance the city has to avoid the PSC taking a fallback position and accepting one of ATC's alternatives is for all those in opposition to them to take a proactive position favoring another alternative – in this case one that would preserve the trees and aesthetics of the neighborhood.

The Common Council does not, however, have to make any new recommendation at all, Roznowski pointed out. It could take no action and thereby remain silent on the matter.

That, however, would leave the February resolution on the boards and put Kesner in the position of opposing the route preferred by other stakeholders.

A number of Walnut Road and Fisher Woods residents remain opposed to the modified route because it still incorporates at least two new towers nearer the street and property lines in order to "drop" the new line from an existing tower.

Opposition to those new structures was specifically mentioned in the February resolution, along with objections to burying the lines in residential front yards.

jbw July 10, 2012 at 03:36 AM
What if they replaced the Eschweiler buildings with a new power plant? That would provide a lot of additional capacity, and it would be right nearby the facilities that are supposed to need it the most. Granted it would cost a lot more, but it could kick the can down the road on our energy consumption by more years than the new transmission line. And then they could stop the cliche "yes, but not in my yard" debate.

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