County hears update on ATC project

ESCANABA – The Delta County Board of Commissioners was updated on the progress of the Holmes-Old Mead Road transmission infrastructure project at Tuesday’s county board meeting.

Brett French, regional manager of external relations for American Transmission Co. updated the board on the progress of the project. ATC is the first multi-state transmission-only utility in the U.S. and owns, operates, and maintains the high-voltage electric transmission lines serving parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The Holmes-Old Mead Road project is one portion of the larger Bay Lake Project, and would be comprised of a single 138-kilovolt line from the Holmes Substation in Menominee County to the Old Mead Road Substation in Escanaba.

ATC announced plans in 2011 to develop and construct the new line and held a series of three public open houses to determine routing and siting for the project.

French said ATC is preparing to break ground on the new Old Mead Substation, located on NewPage property, later this fall.

“We have now completed our routing and siting study, our work to identify a proposed and alternative route,” said French.

The proposed route for the project would use approximately 22 miles of an abandoned railroad corridor between Hermansville and Escanaba, which has been acquired by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and is currently being proposed for conversion to a recreational trail. An alternative route identified for the Holmes-Old Mead Road project coincides with the U.S. 2 corridor.

“We have been working closely with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and have actually presented them with a formal request to obtain an easement that would permit us to construct the line on the corridor that they acquired from the railroad company,” explained French. “Our intent with this is to do this in such a way that we minimize, to the extent practical, the impact on adjoining landowners and will also provide for a recreational use such as is the intent of the department.”

According to French, ATC has even presented the DNR with their commitment in funding and constructing the recreational trail along that corridor. The two parties have been working closely on the matter. French said ATC hopes to work out a Memorandum of Understanding with the DNR and incorporate that with an application for submission to the Michigan Public Service Commission in October.

“This project will actually be presented to the Michigan Public Service Commission under Michigan Public Act 30 of 1995,” said French. “We will be seeking from them a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The certificate itself will define the route where we construct and that will be based on an application that we will submit to them…as well as a testimony and a contested case docket proceeding.”

The commission would then have up to one year to review the application and render its decision. ATC must also abide by a variety of additional state and local permits for the project.

“There are a couple of portions of the proposed route where we are actually going to be rebuilding an existing line out there, taking a single circuit line today and converting that into a double circuit,” he explained, noting the corridor will have a fairly clean appearance.

“We will continue with our commitment to meet with local officials and stakeholders as we prepare to submit the application to the commission in October,” added French. ATC hopes to begin construction on the project during the first quarter of 2015 and to place the line in service during the second quarter of 2016.

According to a fact sheet on the project, reinforcements to the electric transmission grid in the Upper Peninsula and northeast Wisconsin are needed due to factors such as emergency reliability concerns, generation changes, changes in demand and the evolution of a wholesale electricity marketplace.

The Bay Lake Project is also composed of expanded substation facilities at ATC’s North Appleton site in Outagamie County, Wis. and a new 345 kilovolt line and 138 kilovolt line between North Appleton and the Morgan Substation in Oconto County, Wis.

When originally proposed, the project also included a 345-kilovolt line from the Morgan Substation to an expanded National Substation near Ishpeming. Work on this portion has since been deferred while the MISO, the regional transmission planning authority, conducts a study to address a number of transmission proposals and issues in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Manitoba.

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In other business, the board:

-heard a presentation by Delta County Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) educators regarding the many programs, projects, and services provided by the Delta County MSUE Office.

-approved part-time employee hours for corrections officers in the Delta County Sheriff’s Department not to exceed 40 hours per week – up from the 29 hours per week maximum set for part-time employees in anticipation of enactment of the Affordable Care Act, which has since been pushed back.

-adopted a resolution in support of the 2014-16 U.P. Area Agency on Aging Multi-Year Plan for services to the elderly.

-approved submitting a deficit reduction plan to the Michigan Department of Treasury that addresses a deficit balance in the county’s road patrol fund.

-adopted a resolution, similar to Marquette County, not to accept responsibility of any more state unfunded mandates.

-approved a contract between the Michigan Department of Transportation and Delta County Airport for 90 percent reimbursement of mandatory yearly firefighting training.

-adopted a resolution approving the transfer of Renaissance Lane and Renaissance Road, located by the Delta County Airport and renaissance zone, to the Delta County Road Commission. The move is the first step in a multi-step process so the road commission can plow and maintain the roads since one of the lots along the roads in the renaissance zone is now occupied.

-approved the final payment of the Delta County Jail generator project to Rapid Electric in the amount of $9,170.40.

-approved canceling the Sept. 17 meeting due to a conflict with a Michigan Association of Counties conference downstate.