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MADISON — While the route for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek high voltage transmission line has yet to be set in stone, the 102-mile path could cut a swath across hundreds of agricultural properties.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection published its agricultural impact statement for the $500 million electric line project, that would run from Dubuque, Iowa to Middleton, Wis. The state agency is recommending ways to reduce harmful effects on farmland and farm operations.

The proposed 345-kilovolt Cardinal-Hickory Creek line is being planned by three utility companies: ATC, of Pewaukee, is working with ITC Midwest, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Dairyland Power Cooperative, of La Crosse.

The companies say they support a route that would parallel existing highway and power line corridors instead of a longer route through the rural landscape. This route would begin at the Cardinal substation in the town of Middleton and head west to Dodgeville and on to Montfort before heading southwest to Cassville. The line would cross the Mississippi River heading south to the Hickory Creek substation near Dubuque.

DATCP officials say there are 692 agricultural properties along the various potential routes, totaling about 3,700 acres. The actual amount of farmland and number of farms affected would depend on which route is chosen.

The statement notes that the project crosses one of Wisconsin’s most productive agricultural areas, as well as the ridges and valleys of the Driftless Area. Because of that topography, many farmers have installed erosion-control practices that could be changed by this project.

Many of the farms that use organic practices could be affected by construction and maintenance of a power line. Most of the potential routes run cross-country rather than along field edges or property boundaries, which may cause more damage to soil and interfere with farming operations. Some of the project impacts could be reduced by choosing the routes located along roads and highways.

Agricultural impact statements are required for projects initiated by organizations with condemnation authority, if they will take more than 5 acres from any one farm. Electric transmission lines, natural gas lines, roads, airports, wastewater treatment plants and parks are examples of projects that may require a statement.

DATCP staff attended three PSC public meetings to talk to landowners and sent a questionnaire to 377 farmland owners who could have at least three acres taken as an easement or outright purchase for the project. More than 125 landowners responded. The report recommends requirements that the PSC should impose and practices the applicants should follow to reduce agricultural impacts.

To request a paper copy of the statement, call (608) 224-4650; email DATCPagimpactstatements@wi.gov, or write to DATCP, ATTN Ag Impact Statements, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708-8911.

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