By Tamas Mondovics
A handful of local residents attended a public hearing hosted at the Palmetto Club in Lithia to have comments put into public record in connection with TECO’s plan to install high power transmission lines through an exisiting easement that borders FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park.
The hearing, held in late June was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter the day before TECO’s administrative approval hearing in Bartow. Final approval for the project will come from the governor and Cabinet.
Once sworn in, residents stated concerns, comments and opinions about the project that involves an approved plan to run a portion of a 230-kilovolt (kV) above ground transmission line, standing on 90 to 120 ft. tall electric poles on TECO owned-land between FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park communities. The issue for most, part of the line will be about 100 yards from homes and visable from yards.
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., in southeastern Hillsborough County to service higher demand on electricity.
Environmental and administrative law attorney Lawrence N. Curtin explained to those present that TECO is not required to propose any alternatives, which he said the power company is not pursuing.
In rebuttal, residents first expressed their dismay over the lack of notice of the public hearing, which Senior Assistant County Attorney at Hillsborough County Marva Taylor said was posted in the Tampa Tribune a few days prior.
“This was an official way to notify the community and we are not required to do any more than that,” Taylor said.
Channing Park resident Bill Ludka, said, “This is a surprise meeting to most of us. For any other public meeting, we would have seen signs and notices posted all over the community.” Ludka followed up with concerns of safety for residents living in close proximity of the proposed power lines. “What is a safe distance?” he asked. “Is there one?”
Making her case to Judge Canter, Channing Park resident Christi VanVleet, who along with her husband Jason, has been spearheading the community effort, said, “The vast majority of us were not aware of this project when we purchased our homes.”
VanVleet argued that she and many of her neighbors were offered homes sitting on premium lots, for which some have paid upwards of $30,000 more.
“I don’t think people would pay such prices if they knew of a future power line running within yards of their homes.”
History & Detail Of the Power Line Project Per Its Application
Application Number 92-32A3 for certification to authorize construction and operation of the Polk 2-5 Combined Cycle Conversion Project, consisting of the conversion of the existing Polk Units 2-5 combustion turbines to a 1,160-megawatt (MW) combined-cycled generating unit, to be located at Tampa Electric Company’s existing Polk Power Station in Polk County, Florida, and an approximately 27-mile 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line corridor from the site to Tampa Electric Company’s Mines Substation in western Hillsborough County and then to the Fishhawk Substation, and approximately 5.5 miles of upgrades to the existing 230-kV transmission line from Polk to Pebbledale Substation, was filed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Oct. 4, 2012.
The case is pending before the Division of Administrative Hearings, Case Number 12-3369, prior to action by the governor and Cabinet pursuant to the Florida Electrical Power Plant Siting Act, Chapter 403, Part II, Florida Statutes.
The Florida Public Service Commission had previously determined the need for the facility at a separate hearing.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Florida Electrical Power Plant Siting Act, Hillsborough County requested that a public hearing be held in Hillsborough County during which members of the public who are not parties to the Tampa Electric Company Polk Power Station 2-5 Combined Cycle Conversion Project Site Certification Hearing may testify on the Polk-Fishhawk proposed transmission line corridor that traverses Hillsborough County.
This public hearing was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on June 25, 2013, at the Palmetto Club, 17004 Dorman Road, Lithia, Florida. All persons testifying at this public hearing did so under oath and are subject to cross examination.
Following the hearing, the judge heard additional public comment in Bartow the following day.
After the hearing in Bartow, Cherrie Jacobs TECO spokesperson said, “The Bartow hearing wrapped up on Wednesday, June 26, at around 2 p.m. Witnesses representing TECO as well as DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) made their comments while a handful of residents from FishHawk observed.”
A ruling in the case is expected in August. The case will then be sent before the Power Plant Siting Board for action by the Governor and Cabinet.
For more information about the proposed transmission lines please visit www.tampaelectric.com/polktofishhawk or visit the Facebook page “Stop Power Lines NOW.”