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Utilities appeal ruling blocking line’s refuge crossing

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Developers of $492 million transmission line are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that blocks the project’s crossing through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.

American Transmission Co., ITC Midwest, and Dairyland Power Cooperative are building the 345-kilovolt transmission line which would run more than 100 miles from Dane County to Dubuque County in Iowa.

The Driftless Area Land Conservancy and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation have mounted a number of legal challenges to the project in state and federal court.

In a ruling earlier this year, a federal judge sided with the conservation groups that sued the agencies that issued approvals for the line. The groups argued that Rural Utilities Service violated federal environmental law because the agency failed to fully review alternatives to the project.

U.S. District Judge William Conley sent the environmental impact statement back for further review, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The utilities are asking a federal appeals court to put a hold on that ruling until an appeals panel decides the case. They argue federal agencies fully complied with federal environmental law, adding the project can cross the refuge with “appropriate environmental conditions.”

Utilities are hoping to have the line complete and in service by December of next year. A spokesperson for the Rural Utilities Service says the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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