Power line improvements along a well known trail - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Power line improvements along a well known trail

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - Xcel Energy and the DNR are working together to improve a power line between two substations in the Chippewa Falls area.  Eight miles along the Old Abe State Trail is due for an upgrade.

"It was built originally in 1922.  So it's about 90 years old and needs to be replaced," says Xcel Energy Permitting Analyst Matt McFarlane.

That's the plan Xcel Energy had in mind when it approached the DNR to move the line onto state land.

"They're actually removing structures off of private property and putting them into the state's Old Abe Trail state corridor.  So there won't be any impacts to additional private land owners," says McFarlane.

"As part of our negotiations, Xcel has offered to do different landscaping and habitat improvements within the trail corridor," says DNR District Trails Coordinator Cameron Bump.

The route between the Jim Falls and Lake Wissota substations will move poles 15 feet closer to the trail, but leave a smaller footprint with newer equipment.

"The existing structures are called a steel lattice pole that you can see over here.  What we're putting in is called a weathering steel pole.  It will be 35 feet taller, but it will be smaller in diameter," says McFarlane.

Which leaves the DNR to decide how to keep a natural view along the trail.

"Obviously around power lines, trees are not conducive.  So we have to be pretty selective about the species of shrubs and other plants that we would use in the corridor," says Bump.

"Trying to work out details as far as construction and how we can enhance the trail aesthetically and provide additional wildlife habitat."

Once those decisions are complete Xcel can move forward with construction this spring.

"We have to do it when we have high, peak hydro conditions, which is in the spring of the year.  Also, it's a lower time of the trail users," says McFarlane.

"It's a pretty straight forward project.  They're on dry land; they aren't going to be impacting wetlands or waterways," says Bump.

What the line will impact is the amount of power Xcel can pump through in the future.

"It will be operated on the same voltage this is, 115 kilovolts.  In the future it will be able to accommodate 161 kilovolts," says McFarlane.

Working together to amp up the electricity and preserve the environment.

The DNR would like anyone who uses the trail or lives along the power line to voice their ideas for improving this section of the Old Abe during Xcel's construction this spring.

You can learn more about the project on the DNR website.

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