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Little turnout, input at Peosta event for proposed transmission line

PEOSTA, Iowa – Few residents took advantage of an opportunity Monday to voice their opinions on a proposed high-voltage line that could run through Dubuque County, as well as Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties in Wisconsin.

Six people attended the first two hours of a three-hour open house hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service at Peosta Community Centre. The agency is gathering feedback from the public, as well as state and federal agencies, as it begins assessing the project’s potential environmental impact.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t going through (environmentally sensitive) areas like Bankston Park or Governor (Nelson) Dewey State Park,” said Charles Winterwood, chairman of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

“We prefer it to cross the river where another power line is already crossing, rather than create a new obstacle for migrating birds,” said Winterwood, who is also conservation chairman of Dubuque Audubon Society. “We’re happy to see that’s what they are doing, using existing infrastructure. One of the routes is not exactly where the others (power lines) are, but it’s close.”

The proposed 345-kilovolt Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line will stretch 125 miles, following existing low-voltage transmission lines, county roadways and state highways, according to the three companies behind the plan – American Transmission Co., ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power.

The line would start at ATC’s Cardinal Substation in Middleton, Wis., and run to ITC’s Hickory Creek Substation in Dubuque County, crossing the Mississippi River at Cassville, Wis.

The utilities say the project will ease energy-delivery congestion, improve system reliability and improve access to renewable energy, namely wind power.

The $500 million project requires state regulatory approvals from Wisconsin and Iowa agencies as well as federal approvals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Stephanie Enloe, policy program associate with Center for Rural Affairs, said transmission upgrades benefit both rural and urban energy users throughout the Midwest. She said they are key to the expansion of clean, inexpensive energy resources, connecting large cities to remote areas generating wind energy.

More than one-third of energy generated in Iowa comes from wind, but the state’s grid was built to cater to coal power plants, meaning little transmission infrastructure exists in the areas with high wind-generation. In 2011, the regional transmission operator for the Midwest approved a series of transmission upgrades to meet renewable energy mandates and goals through 2028, including the Cardinal-Hickory Creek line.

“Wind is this great driver of economic and environmental benefits in the state, and transmission right now is really the bottleneck to be able to continue to build out our wind resources in Iowa and beyond,” Enloe said.

Opponents contend the money would be better spent shoring up the existing system and reducing demand through spending on energy-efficiency programs.

The transmission line is expected to be in service in 2023, according to ITC Midwest spokesman Tom Petersen.

A tentative timeline calls for a draft environmental impact statement to be issued in the fall of 2017 and completed in summer or fall of 2018.


if you go

Public meetings are scheduled in Wisconsin on plans for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line stretching from Dane County, Wis., to Dubuque County.

The open houses are scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. at each location for the public to learn more about the project and to provide feedback that will be used to prepare an environmental impact statement.

Meetings are scheduled for:

Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Cassville Middle School cafeteria, 715 E. Amelia St.
Wednesday, Nov. 2 in the Dodgeville Middle School cafeteria, 951 Chapel St.

For more information, go to www.cardinal-hickorycreek.com.

Public comments can be submitted via email to comments@CardinalHickoryCreekEIS.us or mailed to SWCA Environmental Consultants, Attn: Cardinal-Hickory Creek EIS, 200 Bursca Drive, Suite 207, Bridgeville, PA 15017.

The public comment period ends Jan. 6.