Costs Rise Nearly $90 Million over Initial Estimates for Transmission Line Crossing Wisconsin

American Transmission Company, ITC Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative are building the 345-kilovolt Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line that runs more than 100 miles from Dane County to Dubuque County in Iowa.

The project’s co-owners told the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in a filing on Friday that they expect the cost to build the $492 million power line to grow by $89.8 million or 18 percent beyond the initial price tag.

Alissa Braatz, an ATC spokesperson for the project’s co-owners, said in a statement that it’s critical for them to be wise with rising costs on behalf of their energy consumers, investors and owners. “And we commit to managing escalating costs to the greatest extent possible,” Braatz said.

In the filing, the utilities highlighted “inflationary cost increases” in the cost of construction materials, labor and land acquisition since project estimates were developed in 2018. The Public Service Commission approved the project the following summer.

According to the filing, the price of steel for ATC and ITC Midwest increased on average roughly 112 percent for steel poles. In addition, the cost of aluminum and steel for conductor wires rose an average of about 59 percent. Labor costs for ATC also went up around 12 percent while ITC Midwest saw an increase of roughly 32 percent from 2018. Land acquisition costs also increased 95 percent in Dane and Iowa counties due largely to increasing land values.

Meghan Sovey, a spokesperson for the commission, said in an email that PSC continues to monitor the project’s progress and costs. Sovey added the commission has authority “if and when appropriate” to reopen the project’s proceedings or take other action.

As the construction of the line nears completion, Braatz said the project’s co-owners are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as it weighs the utilities’ proposal for a land exchange. The line’s owners are also coordinating with the Rural Utilities Services as the agency completes a supplemental environmental assessment on what utilities referred to as minor route changes. They hope the project will secure the necessary approvals to place the line in service by December.