Electricity bill going up

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published January 1, 2003  | January 2003 issue

A controversial proposal for a new electricity transmission line in northern Wisconsin is sparking more debate after planners announced that the project's cost would be more than double the original estimate.

The original estimate for the 210-mile Arrowhead line, which runs from Duluth, Minn., to Wausau, Wis., was $165 million. The new estimate pegs the total at just under $400 million and includes tens of millions for various environmental safeguards. Both the original and revised cost estimates were done by the two utility companies involved in the project, Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Minnesota Power.

The project will go back to the state Public Utilities Commission, triggered by a stipulation in the original plan's approval that any cost overrun of 10 percent or more would be reviewed by the PUC. Environmental groups are reportedly using the cost increase as grounds to reopen debate on the entire project, which they have vehemently opposed.

The additional items in the new estimate would also push back the construction timeline by one year, to 2005. If completed at the new cost, Wisconsin residents will pay 90 percent of the final bill, with Minnesota ratepayers picking up the remainder. Despite the project's increased cost, if approved, Wisconsin residents and businesses would see just a 1 percent increase in their monthly utility bills.

Ronald A. Wirtz