Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Project


Stated purpose

  • The approximately 125-mile, 345 kilovolt line would connect northeastern Iowa and western Wisconsin, helping to improve reliability in the local area and the region.
  • The line will work in combination with other Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s Multi-Value Projects in the region, with the added transmission capacity aiding new renewable energy projects in connecting to the electric grid.

Route description and timeline

  • The line will begin at the new Hickory Creek substation in Dubuque County, Iowa, and would travel east to connect with the Cardinal substation in southwestern Wisconsin.
  • Cardinal-Hickory Creek would cross the Mississippi River, requiring additional regulatory review and approval.
  • The developers anticipate the line could go into service by 2023.

Regulatory process

  • In Wisconsin, the developer must file for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. This process requires the developers to prove the need for the project, and submit at least two routing options for the line. Project developers filed an application with the Public Service Commission in 2018.
  • Developers must also obtain a franchise for the line from the Iowa Utilities Board. The Iowa Utilities Board will consider the need for the project, along with a preferred route submitted by the developers.
  • Additionally, the project will have to seek federal approval with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers due to the project crossing the Mississippi River.
  • The Rural Utility Service began hosting a series of meetings in Iowa and Wisconsin in late October and early November 2016 to take public comments on the project. In 2019, Rural Utility Service released the draft environmental impact statement for the project. The release was followed by several hearings and a public comment period on the draft.

Community feedback

  • The developers have held several information meetings and met with landowners within the proposed project area. These meetings provide an opportunity for community members to ask questions and share their concerns about the project.
  • Project corridors were refined after open house meetings in May 2016. Project developers have submitted a preferred, alternate, and additional route to regulators for review. The routing options that were selected from these corridors are shown in Figure 2.
  • The Driftless Area Land Conservancy and Environmental Law and Policy Center voiced concerns over possible habitat disruption and the introduction of invasive species that could result from the project. In response, developers selected a preferred route in Wisconsin that will make use of existing transmission line or highway corridors.

Clean energy potential

  • The Cardinal-Hickory Creek project will connect to other Multi-Value Projects in Iowa and Wisconsin, providing greater access and capacity for renewable energy in the region.
  • Iowa was ranked third in the nation for installed wind energy capacity in 2018, with 7,312 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity and an additional 1,984 MW under construction.
  • Wisconsin ranks 24th for installed capacity with only 747 MW installed, but with the potential to generate 114,314 MW from wind.