Wisconsin Amish Protest Planned High-Voltage Line

In another example of Amish taking a public stand, over 100 Amishmen occupied the Cashton, Wisconsin village hall to register opposition to high-voltage power lines potentially cutting through their community. From the LaCrosse Tribune:

Wisconsin’s top utility regulator heard dozens of people explain why they don’t want or need high-voltage power lines running through a community that is home to the state’s largest Amish population and wind turbines that more than meet its energy demands.

Hundreds of people, nearly half of them Amish, packed the Cashton village hall Wednesday for the third of five public hearings on the Badger-Coulee project, a joint proposal of American Transmission Co. and Xcel Energy to build a 345-kilovolt line connecting the Madison area to a growing transmission network.

Most who spoke voiced similar concerns to those already on the record.

They complained of the line’s impact on health, property values, economic development, quality of life and wildlife as well as the lack of need, arguing a no-wire solution would be more cost-effective and less detrimental.

The symbolism of Amish–well-known for their rejection of public electricity–protesting a high-voltage transmission line is powerful.

Cashton Wisconsin Village Hall
Cashton Community Hall. Photo by Erik Daily, LaCrosse Tribune

I’ve never heard of Amish speaking out publicly against power lines in their communities. I don’t know anyone who’d want to live by a high-voltage line though.

Besides being an eyesore, some believe they pose health risks, though studies have shown little to no evidence they cause cancer. Cashton Amishman Rudy Borntreger spoke of concerns over health and safety while traveling under potential lines in steel-wheeled buggies. Said Borntreger:

“Our rural life allows us a closer communion with God…It is our sincere hope and wish to live in harmony with our neighbors, especially the English. We do not want to interfere with their lives and we know that many of them share our concerns about these proposed transmission lines.”

He also posed a memorable question: “We’re not using it, so why route it through our community?”

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I’m guessing NO ONE, English or Amish, wants something like this going in their neighborhood.

    2. John H Amey

      Do not give up!

      To my friends in Wisconsin,
      For the past four plus years, we have been fighting an above ground HVDC power line proposal that would totally insect the State of New Hampshire. It is known as Northern Pass, LLC and is a joint project between Hydro-Quebec of Quebec, Canada and Northeast Utilities from Connecticut. A difference in this proposal is that this proposal has to get Presidential Permit in order to enter the US.
      The Department of Energy held hearings around our state and 2500 people attended. Over 250 people spoke and about 85% are opposed to such a ridicules and unneeded project. New Hampshire will be nothing more than an extension cord to facilitate transporting cheap Canadian power, south to Massachusetts and Connecticut. ( as a side note, New Hampshire produces electricity, a lot of it from wood, wind and water and we export about 50% because it exceeds our needs.
      Northern Pass has spent nearly 45 million dollars buying wild land to creat a path but not everyone is ‘willing to sell their soul to the highest bidder’. So after all these meetings, purchases of land and promises of short-term jobs there are still no permits, no jobs and the cost is rising. We, the opposition are too smart to claim victory but are determined that this will fail.
      One concession that a majority of the opposition have made is that because it can be buried, it should be. It is safer, less of a threat to land values and would be an acceptable compromise. They have offered seven miles out of the 187 mile project. We take that as an insult

      My best wishes to all of the opposition in Wisconsin.
      John Amey

    3. Ed from NY

      Well, if you use or want electricity, somewhere there’s got to be a power line (unless you live in Manhattan, where wires of all types are buried underground). I have a rather dim view of “not in my backyard” activism — if not in THEIR backyard, then whose backyard do they propose to route this through?

      Although, perhaps the utility could “market” this better. I imagine a high tension lines must need a pretty wide right of way. Why not build paths for buggies or scooters/bikes/skates alongside it?

      1. OldKat

        Ed, I understand ...

        where you are coming from and I kind of agree; to a point. I work in the gas transmission industry and I am relatively sure that if the majority of the gas pipelines serving the northeastern corridor were not put in place in the late 1940’s through early 60’s the northeast would not be served by natural gas today.

        With that, they also wouldn’t have the majority of the electricity that they have today either; as a very significant percentage of the electricity in this country is now generated by burning natural gas. That is especially true in the northeast, where federal air quality regulations have all but eliminated burning coal or fuel oil, and new nuclear plants are entirely out of the question.

        Where I depart from this position is an experience that I had in the mid-80’s. A consortium of power companies wanted to build what was billed as the largest DC transmission line in the world from just west of Houston, TX to the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex and my wife and I had the distinction of owning the house that would have been the closest to the proposed line of any along its entire 250+ mile length. So we were MORE than just a little interested in the whole thing.

        The companies involved began with an aggressive campaign to shoot down any NIMBY resistance in the rural areas being impacted, by pitching the benefits of it to the residents of Houston & the D-FW Metroplex; literally millions & millions of people. I forget the exact number, but I think it was about 6 or 7 million at the time. They also began an intensive ad campaign where people that were opposed to the line were portrayed as “backward”, “ignorant”, “hicks & hayseeds” or worse.

        When the final map of the proposed route came out there was a curious routing decision. Some 45 to 50 miles northwest of Houston the perfectly straight north-south route made an abrupt 90 degree turn to the west for several miles, then turned north again for 5 miles or so, before turning back east for a distance that brought it in line with the rest of the northbound route, whereupon it made another abrupt 90 degree turn to the north.

        Early assumptions were that the detour in the route was to take it around a prestigious privately owned camp. That turned out not to be the case when a title search of the property nearby to the camp revealed that a large tract of land right near the camp was owned by the CEO of the company that would be the largest owner of the new line. This revelation blew the whole thing out of the water, but that experience made me pretty skeptical about projects of this sort.

        I always want to know everythng there is to know about these projects before I decide if I think they are a good idea, or a bad one.

      2. Leon Moyer

        right on!

        I second your comments, Ed, exposing the NIMBY syndrome among the Amish as well as offering an potential upside to the use of the line paths.

    4. Osiah Horst


      Thanks, Ed and OldKat for the comments. As an old order Mennonite, there are some things I don’t understand. Why would a non-resistant person take part in a meeting like this? Why are the Amish men at the back of the room wearing their hats? If power is needed, and it has to go from here to there, it needs to follow the most practical route, notwithstanding my own preferences. I might not like the project in my back yard, so would I rather force someone else to accept it in their yard. Won’t the land owners be compensated? The protest seems rather selfish to me and rather unbecoming for these plain people.

    5. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I agree about it being unbecoming for plain people. I wouldn’t like it either, but I’d have second thoughts about protesting it. I’d see it differently if it was a meeting to learn about what is going to happen. As for the hats, those type of Amish would probably remove them if they sat down.

      1. Tom A Geist

        I see more than one English person with their hat on as well. This is not a court of law that these people are in, I don’t understand the big deal leaving their hat on.

        Though it sounds nice that one might market this with the idea that a buggy path, or otherwise, would be a part of it, that only makes a little sense to me. *I* would not want to play around those big wires, not just because they ‘might’ be giving off some radiation but because it would not feel safe. And if this runs through the Amish land I doubt they want a bunch of people coming through their land after the poles are up. Unless they live in some area that is remote, they probably don’t need another road to get to who knows where.