Lawsuit aims to block completion of major Midwest power line

By Jeffrey Tomich | 03/08/2024 06:55 AM EST

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek project is viewed as important for renewable energy by environmental groups.

A portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line.

A portion of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line is pictured. American Transmission Co.

A lengthy legal dispute over a $650 million high-voltage transmission line in the Midwest is literally going down to the last mile.

Utilities constricting the 102-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek project from Iowa to Wisconsin are nearly done, but it will be for a court to decide if they can finish a final 1.1-mile gap where the line crosses the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, a 241,000-square-mile habitat for migratory birds, fish and wildlife.

Two of the utilities — ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative — finalized a land swap with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week and the agreement is expected to close by early next week, allowing the companies to proceed. But that agreement triggered a new lawsuit by three conservation groups who argue the land exchange violates federal law.


“We should not set a precedent that a simple land swap is all it takes to plow through a national treasure,” said Jennifer Filipiak, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, one of the plaintiffs.