Residents Rally Against TECO Power Lines During Town Hall Meeting

FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park residents showed up in force to take part in the town hall-like meeting, filling the Palmetto Club banquette hall to capacity.

 FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park residents showed up in force to attend a town hall-like informational meeting last month in opposition to TECO energy and its plans to install transmission lines through their neighborhood.

Prior to the meeting, Christie VanVleet, who is spearheading the effort with some help from her husband, Jason, and a handful of fellow residents, has launched the Facebook page “Stop Power Lines NOW” and hoped for a good turnout, but was pleasantly surprised to see the Palmetto Club’s main banquet hall filled to capacity as the program began, conveying the same message to the power company.

“Since TECO’s open house, we have received a lot of interest and support on behalf of our effort, Christie said. “As we fight this battle, we wanted to share with everyone what we have discovered through our research in connection with this project.”

Gaining some political support, the event welcomed state Rep. Rachel Burgin (R-Riverview), joined by Legislative Aide to state Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Valrico), Audie Canney, who shared their thoughts and expertise in connection with the project, which has not changed since the public was first notified through a flyer provided by TECO.

“I am here to understand the matter and try to help you,” Burgin told her audience emphasizing that the first step of the project includes TECO presenting a certificate of energy need.

The project involves the proposal to run a portion of a brand new 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line above ground on TECO-owned land, between FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park communities, using electric poles that will stand 90 to 120 feet above ground within 100 yards from many residents homes.

The full scale project is a 40-mile expansion from the power plant, in southwestern Polk County to the FishHawk Substation, located at 19306 Boyette Rd.

The company also would build a proposed substation, near Balm Boyette Rd. and Aspen Ave. in Hillsborough County. A 10-mile portion of an existing 230-kV transmission line in the Pierce and Bradley areas of Polk County also would need to be relocated to improve reliability, with a possible completion by 2017.

As the meeting progressed, residents voiced their concern over health and safety risks, declining property values, the unsightliness of the power lines much too close to their backyards, not to mention the project’s destructive affect on the wildlife along the corridor that so many residents paid extra to enjoy for years to come, as they were promised upon purchase. 

Canney explained the crowd during the event what residents can expect as they continue their fight.

“At this time the main question is, can TECO prove that there is a need for additional power,” she said, adding that once that is established, the plan to build will go before the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Public Service Commission (PSC), which will have a final say as to the project’s direction.

Canney also encouraged residents to take advantage of every opportunity and follow up with the process of letting their voice be heard, as the DEP will allow residents to testify about the project’s environmental impact.

As for testifying before the PSC, residents were urged to follow through with the meticulous registration process to get on the list to be heard as the commission will also hold a hearing on the matter, allowing room for additional statements to be presented.

At the end, the meeting clearly confirmed and left no doubt in the minds of the politicians and their representatives, that residents living in FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park want the lines moved, rerouted or buried and that they will fight until the TECO lines are out of sight.

For more information about the proposed transmission lines please visit www.tampaelectric.com/polktofishhawk or visit the Facebook page “Stop Power Lines NOW.”