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Iowa Utilities Board holding hearing on Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line

The Iowa Utilities Board is hearing arguments this week on a proposed transmission line that would affect some residents in the Dubuque area.

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek line would span 100 miles from Dane County, Wisconsin through Dubuque County.

Three companies are involved in this: ITC Midwest, Dairyland Power Cooperative, and American Transmission Company (ATC). ITC spokesperson Rod Pritchard says the new line will have many benefits, including, “increased reliability to the system, expanded system capacity, and access to more different kinds of energy production, particularly renewable energy and notably wind energy.”

Constructing the line will cost nearly $500 million. Ratepayers in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region will have to pay for it. Here in Iowa, ratepayers will shoulder about 8 percent of the cost. Pritchard says that comes out to about $12 a year in cost, but he couldn’t guarantee that price.

“We can’t determine that because…as transmission companies, we do not bill customers directly,” Pritchard explained. “The final cost customers pay is up to the distribution companies, not the transmission company.”

This is what worries ratepayers like Chris Klopp, who lives near Middleton, Wisconsin.

“They claim that it will have benefits but, you know, we’re not so sure, because there’s been a number of transmission lines built both in Wisconsin and in Iowa and peoples rates are going up,” Klopp said. “So that doesn’t exactly give you faith that all of a sudden now your rates are going to go down when they build more.”

The proposed line would go right through Mike Deutmeyer’s farm. He has an issue with the price tag, as well as the three companies seeking eminent domain approval from the IUB.

“I can’t really understand why this isn’t brought up as a rate hike case long before it was an eminent domain case,” Deutmeyer said. “It seems like they put the cart ahead of the horse here. This is eventually going to cost Iowa and ratepayers more money, but before that, they’re going to take our land for eminent domain to use.”

The IUB hearing is at the Hotel Julien in Dubuque and will resume on Wednesday. Depending on how much time is needed, it could also take place on Thursday.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has already approved this project, and the IUB will make its decision in 2020. Several federal agencies will also have to approve the plan because it crosses the Mississippi River.