Court clears Midwest power line’s path through wildlife refuge

By Jeffrey Tomich | 05/09/2024 06:52 AM EDT

Utilities say the Cardinal-Hickory Creek project is critical to bringing large amounts of renewable energy online.

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is shown. Royalbroil/Wikipedia

A federal appeals court has paved the way for utilities to finish the final mile of a contested Midwest transmission line through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed last week a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking completion of the 101-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek line, which would run from Iowa to Wisconsin. The injunction prohibited developers from acquiring a needed easement through the refuge and the Mississippi River in a land exchange with the federal government.

The two-page order could be a final act in a legal saga as utilities indicated they will seek to complete the land swap Thursday. They also previously signaled a desire to begin work on the final segment of the project — which is in western Wisconsin — as soon as possible.


Three conservation groups seeking to block the line haven’t given up, however. They filed a request Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to renew the preliminary injunction and buy time while the court weighs in on the case.