BPEA Interim Report Presentation to Bayfield County Board

BPEA Interim Report on Xcel Energy Bayfield 2nd Circuit Transmission Project

Background:

In 2009 Bayfield County reviewed its process for making decisions about electric utility improvements as part of developing the county’s comprehensive plan. As a result of that work, the county adopted two policies in 2010:

  • Become more involved with public utility companies in planning and development of services within Bayfield County and the surrounding area by meeting with representatives of utility companies to seek system upgrades in a timely and cost-effective manner when they are necessary
  • Utility improvements shall balance environmental factors with the need to rehabilitate and expand services and/or utility networks.

Since the adoption of those policies, two significant utility system infrastructure changes have been presented to Bayfield County communities. One was the Bayfield Electric Cooperative’s installation of a solar garden, an improvement that received widespread discussion and that is consistent with the county’s sustainability objectives.

Another was the rebuilding of Xcel Energy’s transmission line from Ashland to Bayfield County’s west border in 2011. That process required significant legal wrangling on the part of the Town of Eileen because Xcel Energy’s proposal was filed with the state Public Service Commission without extensive advance planning with the local community.

In 2013 Xcel Energy held several local meetings to discuss increasing the capacity of the “Bayfield Loop” transmission line extending from Fish Creek west of Ashland to Bayfield, South Shore communities and Iron River. At one point in this process, Xcel Energy’s staff told local communities that the proposed rebuild was for a 115kV transmission line and the existing right away was identified as the preferred option for routing the new line.

In 2017, Xcel Energy came forward with a different proposal that covers only a portion of the previous proposal, extending from Fish Creek to Bayfield. This proposal is for a 34.5 kV line and only 4 of the 22-mile of this line would follow the existing right-of-way follows Xcel’s existing 50-foot wide right-of-way and the other 18 miles would require new right of way clear-cutting and will affect a considerable number of private and public properties.

A group of local citizens and town officials affected by the new proposed Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Transmission Project requested the Bayfield County Board to delay a decision about an easement through County Forest land for this project so that citizens could have time to study and provide input in the planned transmission line. On September 19, 2017, the decision on the easement was delayed by the Bayfield County Board until January 30, 2018.

 

Citizen Involvement:

Bayfield County citizens then created an informal organization called Bayfield Peninsula Energy Alternatives (BPEA) with the following mission:

To review, research and promote energy alternatives for the generation and transmission of electricity in the Bayfield Peninsula especially as they relate to the Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Project. 

A website (bayfieldenergyalternatives.org) was created for public information on meeting dates and times, questions for Xcel, informative articles, etc.  Representatives from each of the five affected townships were invited to participate and all meetings were open to the public.

 

Action:

BPEA has had direct communication with Xcel representatives, Cheq Bay Renewables, Bayfield Electric Cooperative, the local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and other organizations.  In most cases, there was little knowledge about the Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Transmission Project.  Cheq Bay Renewables had a solar energy generation project in the planning phase, and a submarine transmission line from Ashland to Washburn.  BPEA studied these options at length cooperatively, including communicating with Durocher Marine, the company that installed the cable between Bayfield and Madeline Island.  When questions were presented to Xcel for discussion, they were not adequately answered.

Through a series of more than a dozen public meetings and small work group meetings, BPEA carefully considered different aspects of the Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Project plan and generated an extensive list of questions for Xcel staff.  Though Xcel replied with a “FAQ” document, questions were grouped with general answers and future reports were promised.

To date, (at the time of the writing of this report) Xcel has not responded adequately or thoroughly to questions about the proposed route.  BPEA is attempting to consider the county’s policies for major changes in utility infrastructure, but thus far, the group is still waiting for Xcel to provide critical information such as:

  • What routes were evaluated in developing the proposed new right-of-way?
  • Why did the 2013 proposal from Xcel identify the existing transmission right-of-way as the “preferred option” for routing a 115KV line but it is now not considered a viable option for the 34.5KV proposed line?
  • What are the pros and cons of the different routes, and the criteria used for the selection of this route?
  • What is the determination of need and when will Xcel supply the “comprehensive planning study” promised to be “available this fall”?
  • What are the present numbers and trends in electricity use and peak loads for Washburn and Bayfield?
  • What is Xcel’s long-range plan for the rest of the peninsula loop that runs through the South Shore communities to Iron River?
  • At what time is an upgrade of the transmission line to South Shore communities expected?
  • Why not consider solar generation of electricity to help address peak demand and/or outages?
  • Why not consider an underwater line from Ashland to Washburn?
  • How can this upgrade to local transmission be designed to best support a future where significantly more electrical generation will be from decentralized renewable sources?

Future:

BPEA will continue to pursue more clarity about the energy needs and the existing Xcel Project Proposal, develop a set of criteria for route evaluation, explore opportunities for generation from renewable sources and consider alternative transmission routes.

BPEA is encouraging the County Board to invite Xcel Energy to collaborate more fully with the Bayfield County, local municipalities, and citizens in a coordinated rather than a piecemeal planning process so that, as was the case with Bayfield Electric Cooperative, local communities can be a partner in planning for changes in infrastructure such as this project.

Considering the substantial community, economic, and environmental impacts of a new transmission line right-of-way, we ask the county to request, in partnership with local municipalities and citizens, a holistic review of proposed infrastructure changes before acting on such individual parts of the proposal as access through county lands and changes to electric substations.

Only by proactive collaboration with utility companies can we hope to achieve the county’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan’s goals:

Bayfield County Comprehensive Plan, 2010

Chapter 10: Utilities and Community Facilities

Goal: Utility improvements shall be planned in a collaborative way with surrounding jurisdictions (p.167).

Objective: Become more involved with public utility companies in planning and development of services within Bayfield County and the surrounding area.

  • Meet with representatives of utility companies to seek system upgrades in a timely and cost-effective manner when they are necessary.

Objective: utility improvements shall balance environmental factors with the need to rehabilitate and expand services and/or utility networks.

 

Chapter 11: Intergovernmental Cooperation

Assessment of Future Conditions (p.175)

In the future, it is hoped that an open and continuous dialog between the Bayfield County, towns, municipalities, and other governmental jurisdictions will result in cooperative and mutually beneficial efforts. These efforts are critical to the future planning and development of public and shared services and open communications. Without the coordination and cooperation of local governmental jurisdictions, decisions critical to preserving and enhancing local and regional characteristics, activities, and natural resources will be compromised.

 

Chapter 12: Implementation

Sustainability Implementation (p.180)

Action: work to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

Action: eliminate energy-related impacts on the aquatic and terrestrial environment and on habitat and biodiversity.

Action: generate 25% of electricity and transportation fuels from renewable energy

Action: Capture 10% of emerging bio-industry and renewable energy market by 2030

Action: Promote public awareness regarding the benefits of increased energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy use throughout Bayfield County

 

Legacy Communities Green Tier Charter:

As approved by the Bayfield County Board of Supervisors:

“The term ‘sustainability’ means local governments addressing the needs of the present while not compromising the ability of future generations to address their needs.  It encompasses a broad framework of interrelated issues that includes environmental stewardship, economic growth, public health, and social equity.”

 

Travel Green Wisconsin:

Statement of Sustainability-

Our residents love where we live and want to make sure that our incredible natural resources are here for everyone to enjoy for future generations; Therefore, you will see a tremendous commitment to sustainable practices in our everyday lives.”

 

Educational opportunity regarding this issue:

UW-Extension, Cheq Bay Renewables, and the City of Ashland is sponsoring a six-part series on renewable energy.  This series came about, in part, as a response to the Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Transmission Project.  The first session focuses on the electric transmission system and will be at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, at 6:30pm on Thursday, November 30.

 

 

 

 

Project Update Report to Bayfield County Board

A group of local citizens has been meeting​ almost weekly​ to gather more information from Xcel and look​ into possible alternatives to ​ building a​ new transmission line​ in a new right-of-way.​​

BPEA will present an update to the Bayfield County Board at their November 14th meeting (6:00pm Bayfield County Courthouse – Board Room). The​​ ​Board requested an ​update on our progress to date​​ ​​but they will ​not be ​making a decision at this meeting.

It does have an impact on the members of the board when they see lots of people in attendance and it’s not expected that you stay for the entire meeting.​ If you are able, please attend to show​ ​support.

 

Xcel Alternative Letter and Route Proposal

Xcel recently informed us that they were coming up with alternatives, but we had no prior knowledge as to what that might entail until receiving their email today. BPEA doesn’t have an initial response to this new information. We need to review it and wanted to share it with you for review as well.

Below is the letter to landowners from Xcel and the associated map.


November 7, 2017

Re: Proposed 34.5 kV Bayfield Second Circuit Project overhead transmission line potentially on or near your land

Dear Landowner,

You are receiving this letter because your property is located along a potential alignment of a new 34.5 kilovolt (kV) transmission line. Public input is a valuable part of the process; please review the enclosed materials and provide comments via the options identified below.

Background
Xcel Energy is proposing to construct a new 34.5 kV transmission line within Bayfield County, Wisconsin. An existing transmission line that serves the Peninsula is 50 years old, and another line is needed to increase electric reliability and provide additional support to minimize power outages across the Bayfield Peninsula for all electricity customers, including Bayfield Electric. The proposed Bayfield Second Circuit Project will extend from the proposed Fish Creek substation located about four miles west of the City of Ashland, to the proposed Pikes Creek substation located about two miles west of the Town of Bayfield.

On August 30, 2017 Xcel Energy held a public open house to provide information about the proposed project. Based on feedback received during and following the meeting we have decided to reexamine some alternative alignments. The enclosed Map 1 shows an overview of the proposed and alternative alignments. Map 2 shows the location of your property in relation to one of these alignment alternatives (map 2 only included in individual landowner letters).

Route Alternatives: (download map here)
Old C Road or Ondossagon Road
If your property is located near one of these segments a blue 50 foot wide right-of-way is shown on Map 2. This is a preliminary representation of the alignment being considered in those areas. These segments represent modifications to portions of the initially proposed alignment. In areas where a distribution line is currently present we are proposing to build within the same alignment with the existing distribution line added to the transmission poles.

Existing Transmission Corridor Alternative
If your property is located near the existing transmission line a green transparent overlay of varying width identifying the potential impact area is shown on Map 2. The approximate location of the existing transmission line is shown by the green line. The width of the potentially impacted area varies because we are currently evaluating how we might design and construct a second circuit within or adjacent to the existing corridor while maintaining power to Bayfield County residents. A parallel line (i.e., separate from, but parallel to, the existing line) would be offset from the existing line by 50 feet or more. In some locations this would require that the new line be located on the opposite side of the road from the existing line. A double circuit line (i.e., a new line and the existing circuit built on the same structures) would likely need to be offset from the existing line corridor to allow that line to remain energized during construction of the new line.

Initially Proposed Alignment
If your property is located near the proposed route, the preliminary alignment of the transmission line and a 50 foot wide right-of-way are shown in purple on Map2. This is the same alignment and right-of-way that has been shown on the project web site and in materials shown at the public open house on August 30.

Project Information
More information about this project, including an interactive map, a description of the project need, frequently asked questions and several fact sheets can be found on the project web site at www.xcelenergy.com/bayfield

A copy of the project comment form is enclosed. If you would like to submit written comments regarding this project fill out the comment form and mail it to us at the address on the form or send us an email. Comments that are the most helpful include those regarding specific concerns at your property location, possible alignment shifts, construction constraints, and human and environmental impacts. If you have questions or would like additional information you can contact us at:

Ellen Heine
Sr. Land Agent
Ellen.l.heine@xcelenergy.com
612-330-6073

Chris Buboltz
Project Manager
Christopher.w.buboltz@xcelenergy.com
612-330-1921

Bayfield Peninsula Energy Alternatives (BPEA)
Following the project open house on August 30th a community group has formed to evaluate alternatives to the proposed Bayfield Second Circuit Transmission Project. This group is not affiliated with Xcel Energy. If you are interested in connecting with BPEA please email info@bayfieldenergyalternatives.org or visit the group online at http://www.bayfieldenergyalternatives.org/.

Next Steps
We plan to submit an application for a Certificate of Authority to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in 2018 seeking approval for the project. We are also required to receive approval from Bayfield County to construct the transmission line on county owned land. If the project receives the necessary approvals, construction is expected to begin in 2019, with an estimated in-service date of 2020.

Thank you. We look forward to your input and appreciate your assistance.
Sincerely,
Ellen Heine
Sr. Land Agent, Siting and Land Rights

 

Questions Posed to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

In late October, a BPEA member (henceforth referred to as “we”) called the Public Service Commission (PSC) to inquire about their process for approving new transmission projects and to ask some questions. We were called by Alice Hellman a day or two later. She was somewhat familiar with Xcel’s 2nd Circuit project in that they were working on one but since it has yet to be submitted to them, she did not have any details. We asked her about the “Discovery Request”, which we understood to be a way of getting some specific information about questions our group had posed to Xcel. We also asked about the Intervenor Compensation process.

Alice called me back the next day and left a message saying we should go to their website to learn more about the Intervenor Compensation. She went on to say that until the project gets submitted, the place for me to get more information about their process is on their website.

A few days later we received a call from Jim Lepinski, an electrical engineer with the PSC. We told him about our desire to have Xcel consider a solar option (with storage) for the increased generation need. He was very clear in saying that solar is not a viable option for our area and he did not see that ever getting approved by the PSC. Regarding all our questions to Xcel, he said that it was likely that the answers did not exist at this time. Much of what we were asking was information that would be included in the application for the project. He encouraged us to decide what we really wanted to achieve and then work cooperatively with Xcel to come up with a mutually acceptable project.

He explained to us how the PSC evaluates routes and shared some tables that they use when there is more than one route under consideration. We gave him the criteria for route selection that we received from Ellen and he said it represented what they use as criteria.

On October 29 we filled out a Public Records Request on the PSC website with a list of questions. The inquiries are below.

  • Is a second circuit necessary and if so, why?
  • How many complaints have been registered by citizens regarding the service provided by Xcel from the following areas: City of Washburn, City of Bayfield, Red Cliff, La Pointe, Town of Washburn, Town of Bayview, Town of Barksdale, Town of Eileen, and Town of Bayfield?
  • In the past 10 years, how many outages have occurred in the above mentioned service areas on Xcel transmission lines?
  • What was the duration of these outages?
  • How many complaints were filed as a result of these outages?
  • Has the PSC required Xcel to provide redundancy in its service to these areas?
  • Does Xcel get “penalized” (fined) by the PSC for outages and their duration?
  • Does the PSC have a policy/recommendation that says that Xcel should use existing right-of-ways whenever possible to meet demands for increased voltage and redundancy?
  • Does the PSC approve of having double transmission lines on poles that go through difficult terrain to avoid the need for parallel poles?

On November 3rd we received a written response from Andrew Cardon, Assistant General Counsel (PSC), which basically stated that they are not required to provide answers to questions when the information does not exist.

Action Items to Assist Cheq Bay Renewables with Solar Alternative

The following information was provided by Cheq Bay Renewables at the September 26, 2017 meeting at the Washburn Public Library. This represents ways that the public can assist CBR in pursuing the solar alternative. For more information, contact us.

Citizens Group Action Items to Assist CBR

  • Help research submarine cable
    • Potential problems with things like sediment disturbance
    • Who is governing body, DNR, Army Corp, NOAH, all the above
    • Do we want to approach those bodies and ask about requirements?
    • Research modern installation techniques
    • Find a list of companies that would install the cable
    • Get an indicative price for such an installation
    • Spec the cable: size, shielding?
  • Determine what is acceptable to the group
    • Is moving the transmission line from my property to my neighbors OK?
    • Burying the line vs. overhead
    • Does a buried line require the same right-of-way width?
    • If the submarine cable is found not feasible, for whatever reason, the southern portion of the transmission line would be needed in some form even if the solar generation facility plus battery storage was accepted. Is there room for compromise?
  • Communications with Xcel
    • Type up a set of “talking points” that are acceptable to the group
    • If contacted by Xcel, write down subject matter, etc., share with group
  • Communications with ourselves
    • Set up a Google Group or other means to share information easily
    • Make a list of most active people, phone numbers, email addresses
  • Solar at 35,000 feet (the big picture)
    • Participate in local events like the Oct. 1, Solar Tour
    • Show up at Engineer’s Report about Washburn Solar Project, Oct. 26, 6:30pm, County Board Room, 2nd floor of the courthouse
    • Do you have solar or other renewable energy at your home? If not, why, talk with CBR about your situation and maybe sign up for our group buy or learn about community solar
    • Participate in organizations like Citizens Climate Lobby

 

 

 

Newsletter Update

Newsletter update from September 8, 2017:

Residents Concerned About the Proposed Xcel Bayfield 2nd Circuit Project
An email newsletter on what’s happening, what’s next, resources, meetings, etc.

Thank you to everyone for showing up at the September 2nd meeting at the town hall. Click here for a pdf of notes from the discussions at the Concerned Citizens Meeting.

If you know of anyone else that might want to receive this newsletter, please sign up on the home page of www.bayfieldenergyalternatives.org.

What has taken place:
Roy Settgas wrote an op-ed article that was published in the Ashland Daily Press on Wednesday, September 6th that summarized the Concerned Citizens Meeting. Click here to read the article.

The government committee and a variety of other individuals have collaborated on a resolution for the Town of Washburn presented to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, September 5th. You can read a pdf of the resolution here. The resolution was structured so that it could be used as a template for the other townships as well.

The resolution was shared with the Town of Bayview in time for their Wednesday, September 6th board meeting and passed and thus, will be submitted to the county. The resolution will go before the other town board meetings in the coming weeks. See below for schedule.

Upcoming Meetings
– Tuesday, September 12th – Town of Washburn, Town of Barksdale, Town of Eileen
– Monday, September 18th – Town of Bayfield
– Tuesday, September 19th – Bayfield County board meeting

Resources
Documents shared at the Concerned Citizens Meeting as well as other documents provided by Xcel Energy are accessible under the “documents” tab.

What to expect in the coming weeks:
– Presentations at each town board meeting to prompt passing the resolution for submission to the county board
– Drafting of template letters for submitting feedback to county board supervisors, Xcel, Bayfield Electric, the Public Service Commission and our state representatives.

What you can do:
– Submit your written feedback to Xcel via the public comment form above or email the Xcel contacts below
Ellen Heine
Sr. Land Agent
Ellen.l.heine@xcelenergy.com

Chris Buboltz
Project Manager
Christopher.w.buboltz@xcelenergy.com

– Write a personal letter to your Bayfield County board representative requesting that they pass the resolution from the towns and allow enough time for careful consideration and collaboration on this project. Alternatively, you can also send them an email.

If there is any inaccurate information contained in this email, please notify me. All information is provided with the best intent of accuracy.

Help us keep everyone updated!

info@bayfieldenergyalternatives.org