ATC Takes Precautions For Power Line Along Wetlands

American Transmission Company’s Rockdale-West Middleton transmission line has been under construction since October, but now the project is moving full speed alongside Beltline drivers.

For the next few months, crews will try to strike a balance between heavy industrial machinery and a sensitive environmental landscape in the mud-lake marsh.

Environmentalists said they don’t want a power line to go in the sensitive Yahara marsh, but ATC said it’s progressing carefully and taking every possible precaution.

“We’ve been on working on this project since 2004, with an extensive public outreach, public regulatory process. So this is really the culmination of a very long effort,” said Sarah Justus of ATC.

The project’s Department of Natural Resources permit for wetlands and waterways is 12 pages long, with thousands of additional pages of documentation laying out very specific steps.

Unlike existing power towers already more than 100 feet high along Interstate 39/90, rebar and concrete won’t be part of the stability equation in the marsh.

“Unlike a normal foundation, we’re not doing any excavation into the wetland at all,” Justus said.

David Siebert oversees energy projects for the DNR, which required independent environmental monitors to watch ATC’s contractors while they work.

“We want to protect the quality of the wetlands, make sure the impacts are minimized,” Siebert said.

Siebert said the pressure that the giant treaded machines place on the wetland is less than that exerted by a person.

“Your step or mine may be more force within that little area than this vehicle that’s going through there,” Siebert said, pointing to one of the vehicles being used for the project.

The construction will move forward slowly until that phase’s completion in March, allowing boaters and kayaks back out on the water come spring.

“We won’t have any kind of impact on people’s ability to use the waterway,” Justus said.

Once the special foundations are in place, shorter towers than what can be viewed along the interstate will go up across the wetland, with that work being completed in March. The towers will be shaped like the letter “H” so the lines will land between two poles.

The rest of the transmission line project won’t be done until 2013, and the DNR requires environmental monitoring for up to two years after that.