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Monday, May 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Monday, May 27th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Groups file lawsuit to halt power line across Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge

American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Cooperative, Inc., want to build a 102-mile, 345-kilovolt line linking Iowa’s Dubuque County and Wisconsin’s Dane County. (Stock photo courtesy of Tim Eisele)

Madison — A coalition of groups filed a last-minute federal lawsuit seeking to stop plans to build the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line across a Mississippi River wildlife refuge.

American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Cooperative, Inc., want to build a 102-mile, 345-kilovolt line linking Iowa’s Dubuque County and Wisconsin’s Dane County. The cost is expected to top half a billion dollars. The utilities say the line would improve electrical reliability across the region.

A portion of the line would run through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Cassville, Wis. The federal wildlife refuge is a haven for fish, wildlife and migratory birds that use it as their breeding grounds within the Mississippi Flyway. Millions of birds fly through the refuge.

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Opponents have been working to stop the project for years. The National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation filed an action in federal court in Madison seeking an injunction to block the refuge crossing.

The groups argue that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued final approvals for the refuge crossing in February without giving the public a chance to comment.

They also contend that the USFWS and the utilities improperly reached a deal calling for the utilities to transfer about 36 acres south of Cassville into the refuge in exchange for 19 acres within the refuge for the line. The groups argue the deal violates the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which establishes a process for determining refuge use.

The groups said they needed an injunction quickly because the utilities are creating construction staging areas on both sides of the river to begin the work.

The lawsuit names the USFWS, the refuge manager and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as defendants. Online court records showed U.S. Department of Justice attorney Kimberly Anne Cullen is representing them. She referred questions to U.S. DOJ spokesperson Matthew Nies, who declined to comment.

Dairyland Power Cooperative and ITC Midwest officials issued a joint statement saying they were “dismayed” at the lawsuit.

They said that the land exchange would trade lower quality wildlife habitat for higher quality habitat, allowing for greater protection for birds, animals, fish, and plants. They added that the lawsuit will only drive up costs and will slow efforts to link renewable energy sources to the transmission system.

ATC officials had no immediate comment.

(Story by Todd Richmond / Associated Press)

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