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Coral Gables

Coral Gables mayor, attorney talk with state pols about FPL lines

A tower crane works near one of the two containment buildings at FPL's Turkey Point facility in June 2012. The crane was lowering new feedwater heater end shells to crews below, all part of an upgrade at the facility.
A tower crane works near one of the two containment buildings at FPL's Turkey Point facility in June 2012. The crane was lowering new feedwater heater end shells to crews below, all part of an upgrade at the facility.

Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason and City Attorney Craig Leen traveled to Tallahassee earlier this month to meet members of Gov. Rick Scott’s cabinet who will vote on Florida Power & Light’s plan to run two towering power-line corridors through Miami-Dade County.

Coral Gables, along with Pinecrest, South Miami and Kendall, neighborhoods that would be affected by FPL’s desire to place a set of 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot towers through the municipalities, have opposed the plan since FPL applied for the new corridors in 2009. The utility calls them crucial to improving reliability at a time of projected population growth. Another corridor would run high voltage lines on 150-foot towers along the northeastern edge of Everglades National Park.

The lines, including a new substation, are projected to cost about $710 million in an expansion process that could run an estimated $12 billion to $18 billion.

In July, Coral Gables filed suit contending the proposed line from Turkey Point up U.S. 1 through Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove, violates its 30-year franchise agreement, which expires in 2028. That case is pending, Leen said Friday.

The meeting at the state capitol seemed to go well, Leen said.

“We had a good reception, they understood our issues and the tremendous problem this causes Coral Gables to have this corridor go right through our city. This corridor already exists in an alternate corridor,” he said, referring to an existing corridor in the middle of Kendall, from Southwest 136th Street to Flagler Street between 107th and 97th Avenues.

“We were trying to explain to them it’s not just a situation where we are complaining that it’s coming to our city but it’s causing harm to a whole new area that is not necessary,” Leen said. “Where it already exists, you can improve that. Instead of decreasing our property values you could improve their property values by improving the existing corridor.

“We are concerned for every community and tried to make that point, too,” he said. “We think they should do undergrounding. That would be the ultimate solution because everyone is helped and we believe they have the lawful authority to do that. Mayor Cason did a wonderful job representing our residents.”

Cason, at Tuesday’s regular Commission meeting, reiterated the point that the lines should be placed underground at the utility’s expense, rather than through Coral Gables’ coffers since the superhighway corridor doesn’t serve just Coral Gables and would have a negative impact on aesthetics and property values.

Barring that option — FPL says undergrounding the lines would come at an additional cost of $12 million to $16 million per mile and wasn’t without its own potential costly maintenance problems in storms — “We made our point why we think the alternate corridor is the least-worst option,” Cason said.

Florida Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander will make his recommendation to a siting board headed by Scott and his Cabinet on Dec. 6 in Tallahassee. Scott and his Cabinet will make a decision in the new year.

If Coral Gables doesn’t prevail, Leen said that he, along with Cason, would return to Tallahassee in January or February for another cabinet meeting to advocate for undergrounding or the alternate corridor and would appeal the decision.

Cason hopes to meet one-on-one with Scott before Dec. 6.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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