ECB Publishing, Inc.
A proposed high voltage transmission line that would cut across Jefferson County from Leon to Madison is creating concern among some local residents.
Gordon Paulus, senior communications specialist for Gulf Power, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. since January 2019, confirmed last week the veracity of reports that have been circulating here for weeks.
Paulus told the Monticello News late Wednesday, April 3, that the plan is to join the resources of Gulf Power, which serves eight Northwest Florida counties, with those of Florida Power & Light, also a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. that serves the East Coast, South Florida and much of Southwest Florida. Or more specifically, the proposed line would connect the Marianna power station on the west with the Lake City power station in the east.
“This will increase resiliency and reliability,” Paulus said. “If a hurricane like Michael hits us again, we can get power from the other part of the state.”
Paulus said the project was in the early planning and engineering stages and getting the required permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company also, he said, was in the process of meeting with local and state officials and stakeholders and exploring easement acquisition.
He said the route was not set in stone.
“We're still working on the route to minimize the impact,” Paulus said.
Indications, however, are that the line would run alongside I-10 from Madison, turn south at Waukeenah Highway and run along this road to Tram, where it will then go west into Leon County.
Paulus said the cost to Gulf Power was projected at between $350 and $380 million, with construction expected to begin in 2020.
Concern about the proposed line has been spreading since reports began surfacing that representatives of a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. had been approaching residents along Tram Road in Leon and Jefferson counties to inquire about the acquisition of easement.
NextEra Energy Inc., established in 1925, bills itself as one of America's largest capital investors in infrastructure, with plans for $40 billion in new infrastructure investment planned through 2020, according to its website.
The local residents' expressed concern is that proposed line is a 161-kilovolt line, which means it will be mounted on 90-foot-tall cement poles with four feet diameter bases. They worry that the high voltage line will devalue nearby property values, spoil the area's rural character and pose potential health risks.
“It is unfortunate that NextEra/FP&L did not approach Tram Road communities or local government authorities before talking to residents regarding acquiring easements,” states an electronic flyer that has made the rounds. “Nor did they share any detailed information allowing for local input to consider alternative route possibilities.”
Already, a Leon County group that was formed originally to fight the City of Tallahassee's spray field expansion several years ago has been reactivated to fight the proposed transmission line. Called the South East Leon County Neighborhood Association (SELCNA), the group is urging residents to contact their elected officials and voice opposition to the project.
“There is no benefit from this project in the near-term to those on and near Tram Road and minimal benefit in the long term,” states the SELCNA flyer. “It appears the only benefit is economics for NextEra/FP&L at an environmental and aesthetic cost to residents in Leon and Jefferson counties. This is the very definition of environmental injustice!”
There is also another group on Facebook, calling itself the Leon County Transmission Power Line Opposition Group, that supposedly includes Jefferson County residents. And talk is that some Wacissa resident were planning to organize in opposition.
County Coordinator Parrish Barwick said last week that representatives of a subsidiary of NextEra Energy had approached him and local officials to inform them about the project. But the point he wanted to emphasize was that local officials had little say in the matter, as this was an issue largely decided at the state and federal level.