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Judge drops power line construction ban (UPDATE)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — A judge has reversed his decision to halt construction of a 7-mile stretch of a high-voltage power line in western Wisconsin.

The La Crosse Tribune reported that La Cross County Judge Todd Bjerke agreed to lift the construction ban Tuesday after reviewing environmental studies regarding the impact of the Badger-Coulee transmission line. Earlier this month, Bjerke ordered construction to stop in northern La Crosse County, saying the Wisconsin Public Service Commission failed to provide such documents.

Bjerke also ordered the commission to reconsider its decision to place the site on separate poles across the highway from another high-voltage line because it “lacked any rational basis.”

The town of Holland sued last year to overturn the commission’s approval of the line, saying the panel wasn’t protecting consumers when it authorized the $580 million project.

Holland’s town clerk, Marylin Pedretti, said she was unhappy with the ruling and the town is reviewing its legal options.

“Disappointing is an understatement,” she said. “By the time we go through the courts and everything, it’s going to be built.”

The 180-mile line is a joint venture of American Transmission Co., Dairyland Power Cooperative and several regional utility companies. The owners argue that the line, which will run between the Madison suburbs and Holmen, will make the electric grid more reliable and connect remote locations with strong wind resources to large cities where the energy is needed.

The cost is expected to be shared by customers in 15 Midwestern states and one Canadian province.

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