Court rejects utility plea to finish Midwest power line

By Jeffrey Tomich | 04/30/2024 06:49 AM EDT

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek project would move power between Iowa and Wisconsin, but a lawsuit seeks to block construction across a wildlife refuge.

A portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.

A portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line. American Transmission

A federal judge has denied a request by two utilities to close a land deal in a Midwest wildlife refuge, preventing the completion of a high-voltage power line.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Conley upheld a preliminary injunction on the land swap, which Dairyland Power Cooperative and ITC Midwest need to build the last mile of a power line between Iowa and Wisconsin.

The decision — in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin — means continued uncertainty for the 102-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line. The line was approved by the region’s grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), in 2011 as part of a portfolio of 17 projects to bolster grid reliability and help Midwest states and utilities meet climate goals.


In a statement, ITC and Dairyland said they are “disappointed” in the order, which prevents a land swap approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Agriculture. The Department of Justice, which is representing the federal agencies in the case, declined to comment on the order.