Wildlife Refuge Concerns at Heart of Power-Line Controversy
Monday, May 9, 2022
Work continues on a proposed power-line system that would cross into Iowa from Wisconsin, even as court battles play out about the project. Conservation groups say the line would affect the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down plans to drive the Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line through the refuge. But energy companies leading the project are appealing that decision.
Mike Senatore, vice president for conservation law of the group Defenders of Wildlife, said residents of the region should pay attention to the potential impact if the recent ruling is reversed.
"This particular refuge, it's a globally important bird area," said Senatore. "It has important floodplain areas. It's going to have impact that potentially increases the effectiveness of predators."
Senatore noted that this project also involves a potential land swap between the companies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which he warns could set a dangerous precedent.
Project officials argue they're in compliance with federal and state laws, and say the work replaces older power lines in the protected area with a less-intrusive setup.
Howard Learner is the president and executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which represents the groups challenging the power-line plan. He said he's concerned that construction keeps forging ahead along other sections of the route, even as legal matters are still being decided.
"They are keeping spending money and plowing through and building right up to the edges of a refuge that they're not allowed to cross," said Learner. "And that's a waste of ratepayer's money, and it creates an enormous amount of unnecessary environmental and property damage."
Last month, the Iowa Utility Board denied a request to halt some of the construction work. Meanwhile, opponents are urging the Biden administration to reject the land swap and compel the companies to seek alternatives.
Utilities file appeal in federal NEPA case for Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project 3/22/22
IUB Denies Requests to Pause Construction of Cardinal-Hickory Creek Electric Transmission Line the Iowa Utilities Board 4/19/22
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