Cadillac dealer Ed Williamson calls the prospect of 100-foot-tall, high-voltage transmission lines strung in front of his gleaming showroom along U.S. 1 in Pinecrest a potential business killer. Cindy Lerner, the citys mayor, is so steamed over the proposal that she refuses to even call them transmission lines in public.
I call them monstrosities, she said.
Florida Power & Lights plan to run two new major power line corridors through Miami-Dade County will be the subject of public hearings this week as part of a state certification process. One set of lines would run through some of the most affluent communities on the countys eastern side; the other, much larger trio of lines would run along the border of Everglades National Park.
Its safe to say both routes, which FPL defends as vital to supplying energy to South Floridas growing population, will face contentious opposition.
Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables, backed by some area businesses, have campaigned for three years against the utilitys plan to run a 230-kilovolt line that would run up U.S. 1 from the edge of Cutler Bay to Coconut Grove, urging FPL to put it underground or use an existing corridor farther west. Earlier this month, Coral Gables filed a suit contending the proposal violated long-standing agreements, and Miami also waded in with legal objections.
The western corridor, which would string two rows of 500-kilovolt lines on 150-foot-tall concrete and steel towers and a third 230-kilovolt line along a seven-mile stretch of Everglades National Park, has raised concerns with park managers and environmentalists, who say it would harm wildlife, destroy wetlands, blight the landscape and disrupt restoration projects. Miami-Dade County questions whether both corridors run afoul of county codes.
Lerner, who has battled FPL for several years over the proposals, said the utility is trying to ram through two damaging corridors to support a nuclear expansion at Turkey Point she believes isnt needed and suspects may never get built.
Theyre destroying two areas in one fell swoop when they dont have to build the facilities at all, Lerner said.
FPL insists it thoroughly studied the options and selected routes to reduce impacts and expenses as part of a nuclear expansion plant at Turkey Point the company argues will boost the reliability of its service and, over time, save customers billions of dollars in electrical costs. The new corridors are intended to deliver power from two additional nuclear reactors FPL wants to add at the plant on South Biscayne Bay.
This project is projected to save our customers $75 billion in fossil fuel costs over the life of the project and the initial life is 40 years thats an enormous number, said FPL spokesman Peter Robbins. Nuclear energy is free of emissions, no greenhouse gases are produced. We encourage people to learn more about it.
FPLs plans, initially filed in 2009, have already gone through lengthy state and federal reviews.
A final decision rests with Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet, who compose the states little-known Power Plant Siting Board.
The hearings this week scheduled in Homestead, Coral Gables and Miami are intended to gather public input as part of a certification process overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Theyre being held by Florida Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander, who will write a recommendation to the siting board. His recommendation is expected by October and a decision from Tallahassee by December but the timeline has been pushed back numerous times so far.