FPL handed another setback in power line placement

For the fourth time, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has deemed Florida Power and Light’s South Dixie Highway (U.S. 1) transmission line application incomplete. The line would serve two new nuclear power plants that FPL wants to build at Turkey Point.

Quite aside from huge hurdles regarding the environmental impact of the plants themselves, it appears that FPL still has a long way to go to provide the answers DEP expects on the installation of the 85- to 105-foot tall transmission lines. These would extend along the U.S. 1 corridor from south of Southwest 136th Street to downtown Miami. FPL defines the corridor so broadly that lines could even run off of U.S. 1 north along Southwest 77th Avenue and east along Kendall Drive through Downtown Dadeland.

For Pinecrest residents, uncertainties abound. If FPL can achieve approval of a broader corridor, the utility gets free rein to select the actual route, which may run on the west or east side of U.S. 1, or a combination of the two.

DEP has agreed with Miami-Dade County that FPL needs to provide additional information about pole placement and design, noise, lighting, shadows, glare, vibration, access, traffic, parking, height, bulk, scale of architectural elements, landscaping, buffering and safety to determine compatibility with its comprehensive plan.

While FPL has acknowledged the possibility that lines might be Metrorailmounted, the utility will now need to conduct a thorough feasibility study.

Unanswered questions also remain regarding how line installation would affect future mixed-use development along the island located between U.S. 1 and the busway. It was news to me that the county envisions mixed-use buildings being built there ranging in height from six to 10 stories. Nonetheless, these would require minimal power line setbacks.

FPL has allowed that it may underground sections of the line where insurmountable engineering challenges preclude other options, but continues to hold that any further undergrounding cost must be borne by affected municipalities rather than all system users. In any event, FPL now needs to furnish detailed site criteria for each installation technology (underground, overhead and Metrorail).

Last July, the Pinecrest challenged FPL’s above-ground siting of this massive, ugly transmission line in our front yard. We filed our objection with DEP within the incredibly tight one-month deadline allowed by the process, citing reasons too numerous to go into here.

Leading up to this, we had begun building a strong coalition with the adjacent municipalities of South Miami, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay, plus the county. We meet monthly at Chamber South to discuss this and other issues that affect us all such as transportation.

In March, The Village Council unanimously passed four resolutions directed to the Florida Legislature that would allow for more meaningful engagement in transmission line siting decisions by municipalities such as ours. Presently, the deck is stacked and utilities hold all the cards. Other communities have now passed similar resolutions.

Last month, Mayor Cindy Lerner persuaded the Miami-Dade County League of Cities to form a committee to study reforms necessary at the state level, setting the scene for broader joint action.

Also, Mayor Lerner, Vice Mayor Cutler and I journeyed to Tallahassee for the Dade Days event. Our main order of business was to visit the governor’s cabinet members, plus regulatory and elected officials, to gain insight into the process, meet influential people, understand attitudes and plead our case. All in all, we participated in nearly two dozen planned and spontaneous meetings, sometimes accompanied by County Commissioner Katie Sorenson and other local elected officials.

We came back from Tallahassee with a better knowledge of decision points where the Village’s participation would be useful. More than likely, this issue will be resolved years from now at the Cabinet level.

Meanwhile, FPL announced recently that its project timeline had slid by two years.

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