A planned Wisconsin power line is expected to connect with the CAPX2020 line to cut across Minnesota, including the Rochester area.

Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co. have filed an application with the state of Wisconsin to build a power line that would bring electricity from western Wisconsin to the Madison area.

The proposed 345-kilovolt Badger Coulee line would run 159 to 182 miles from the La Crosse area to a substation in Middleton. Building it would cost an estimated $514 million to $552 million.

The project would link up with the La Crosse-to-Rochester power line being built by CapX2020, a consortium of utilities including Xcel Energy.

Dairyland Power Cooperative and WPPI Energy, which are partners in the La Crosse-to-Madison line, are potential investors in the new line, known as Badger Coulee, the application says.

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"This line is a very important project for ATC and Xcel Energy," ATC spokeswoman Kaya Freiman said. "It's additional interstate connections into Wisconsin, which improves access not only to more energy but to more renewable energy."

The $2.2 billion CapX2020 line under construction will stretch 800 miles across North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The $500 million Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse portion is well underway, with foundation construction started in September between Pine Island and the Mississippi River.The NorthRochester to Northern Hills 161 kV line was completed in August. The 16-mile line will be energized in March 2014 followingsubstation construction, according to CapX.

As for the Badger Coulee line, the utility has proposed two routes for the project. One would go through Black River Falls and Blair before hitting Holmen, north of La Crosse. The other would run through Portage, Lyndon Station, Rockland, Onalaska and then go north to Holmen.

More than 90 municipalities and 2,000 citizens have signed petitions asking the Wisconsin Public Service Commission look at alternatives such as more conservation and renewable energy.

"Expanding transmission and centralized power does not fit with the image most people have of the energy future," Mauston dairy farmer Jane Powers said. "Building these lines across the state would be like us spending billions on expanding land line phone service as we move more and more toward cellular phones."

The Public Service Commission is expected to take until 2015 to review the proposal and analyze its environmental impact and its route. If approved, construction would likely start in 2016 and the line could be in service in 2018.

The utilities contend the line would result in lower energy costs for utility customers over time and a more efficient transfer of power between Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as enhanced ability to import electricity from wind farms built to the west of Wisconsin.

The project already was approved by planners at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, based in Carmel, Ind. MISO is responsible for the day-to-day operation, and long-term planning, for the Midwest power grid.

MISO's go-ahead doesn't allow construction to proceed, as the PSC must determine that the project is needed and, if it does, select a route for the line. If it is built, the MISO approval means customers across the Midwest, and not just those in Wisconsin, will pay for the project. In turn, Wisconsin customers would have to pay for other similar regional projects built in other states.