City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Leave Aldo Out of It

April 8, 2009 3:43 PM

Last week City Attorney Mike May went to bat for the City of Madison in arguments before the Public Service Commission on the proposed American Transmission Company power line. May made our case in three parts. First, he presented an expert witness who argued that the line is not needed now given the recent downturn in demand. Second, he argued that if the PSC decides the line is needed, then the Beltline route was not the best of the two proposed routes given its total cost and impacts. And finally, he argued that if the Beltline route was chosen it should be placed underground.

By all accounts, Mike did a great job representing the best interests of the city. We'll know where we stand in June when the PSC is expected to issue its ruling.

One thing the City Attorney did not do is opine on what Aldo Leopold would have thought about it. But others have. At a recent hearing, former Madison Alder Mike Briggs, who now lives outside the city, said that he believed Leopold would want the huge power line placed along the Beltline in the city and coincidentally not along Briggs' own backyard in southern Dane County.

Those same sentiments involving Leopold were echoed in official testimony from Town of Dunn Chair Ed Minihan as well. Of course it's fine for Briggs and Minihan not to want a giant power line in their backyards, but it's more than a little presumptuous to pull Aldo Leopold into it.

For one thing if the line doesn't go through southern Dane County it'll go right through the UW Arboretum that Leopold founded. It's hard to believe that Leopold would support that idea.

For another thing, if the line is built along the Beltline it will make it much harder and much more expensive to expand the Beltline if that is necessary some day. The poles would have to be moved, perhaps deeper into the Arboretum. And if the poles can't be moved it increases the chances that a new South Beltline would have to be constructed roughly along the route of the southerly ATC corridor. So, if Briggs and Minihan don't want a power line through their backyards, how would they feel about a six-lane freeway?

The truth is none of us can say what Aldo Leopold would think about this. So let's have enough respect for his legacy to leave him out of it.

What we know for sure is that Leopold was an early advocate of conservation of all of our natural resources. And that, it seems to me, is at the heart of Leopold's message: before we build a huge power line either through the Arboretum or through southern Dane County, let's make sure we have tried conservation first.


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